Delhi HC directs Air India to disclose the identity of complimentary tickets holders under RTI
Concurring with the single judge order dated 28th November 2011, a bench of acting Chief Justice AK Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw of the Delhi High Court directed the national carrier Air India (AI) to reveal the names and addresses of the people to whom complementary air tickets were issued in the year 2006. The bench dismissed an appeal filed by the national carrier Air India (AI) wherein it was argued that the disclosure of the identity of these peoples would harm the commercial interest of the airline. The airline said that the complimentary tickets were given to encourage and promote travel on AI flights and to help its image building.
Holding that there is nothing to show that there is any confidentiality in the list of people to whom complementary air tickets were issued, the HC bench found the plea raised by AI to be a bogey. The bench further observed that recognising some of the names in the list, “we ourselves are curious to know the reasons for the appellant to have bestowed largesse of complimentary tickets on them”.
Air India had informed the High court bench that 1200 complimentary tickets were issued while a total of 44 lakhs tickets were sold while a list of 706 names was furnished before the bench. The bench was not impressed with the argument that complimentary tickets represent a miniscule proportion of the total number of tickets sold by the appellant and observed that the issuance of complimentary tickets by the Air India is at the expense of the public exchequer. The bench said, "The public funds even of a small amount cannot be allowed to be wasted and no public official, as the employees, officers of AI, are authorised to meet or dole out personal favour at the cost of public funds".
The issue started in November 2008, when an applicant demanded detailed information about the number of free complimentary air tickets issued during 2006, including the names and addresses of those who were issued the tickets, the regulations in this regard and the sactioningn authority. The PIO refused the information under section 8(1)(d) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; of the RTI Act and on appeal, the Central Information Commission upheld the view of the Air India in March 2010 that revealing the identity of the passengers would affect the commercial interest of the company.