Information regarding foreign tours of ONGC officials was denied u/s 8(1)(d) - CIC: As per para 1.8 of the DoPT OM No. 1/6/2011IR, Public Authorities may proactively disclose the details of official tours; the purpose of visit need not be disclosed
This matter pertains to an RTI application dated 30.9.2013 filed by the Complainant, seeking information on six points regarding foreign tours of the Chairman, ONGC and its officers and some other details. The CPIO responded on 7.11.2013 and denied the information in terms of section 8 (1)(d) of the RTI Act. Not satisfied with the reply of the CPIO, the Complainant filed an appeal to the First Appellate Authority on 13.11.2013. Not having heard from the FAA, she lodged a complaint dated 9.1.2014 to the CIC, which was received by the Commission on 24.1.2014.
2. The Respondents submitted that the Complainant sought information in regard to foreign tours of various officials of ONGC at points No. 1 to 4 of her application, which was denied under Section 8(1) (d), as it constituted information of commercial confidence. They were of the view that disclosure of the purpose of the visits could harm the competitive position of ONGC. They further submitted that the information sought at points No. 5and 6 was provided.
3. We do not agree with the above decision taken by the Respondents and invite their attention to para 1.8 of the DoPT OM No. 1/6/2011IR dated 15.4.2013, which is reproduced below:
1.8 Foreign Tours of PM/Ministers
1.8.1 A large number of RTI queries are being filed on official tours undertaken by Ministers or officials of various Government Ministries/Departments. Information regarding the nature, place and period of foreign and domestic tours of Prime Minister are already disclosed on the PMO’s website. 1.8.2 As per DoPT’s OM No. 1/8/2012IR dated 11/9/2012, Public Authorities may proactively disclose the details of foreign and domestic official tours undertaken by the Minister(s) and officials of the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India and above and Heads of Departments, since 1st January, 2012. The disclosures may be updated once every quarter.
1.8.3. Information to be disclosed proactively may contain nature of the official tour, places visited, the period, number of people included in the official delegation and total cost of such travel undertaken. Exemptions under Section 8 of the RTI Act, 2005 may be kept in view while disclosing the information. These instructions would not apply to security and intelligence organisations under the second schedule of the RTI Act, 2005 and CVOs of public authorities.
Since this is a complaint registered under Section 18 of the RTI Act, we would refrain from giving a direction to the Respondents to provide any information. However, the Respondents should keep the above in mind while answering RTI queries of a similar nature in future. The purpose of visits need not be disclosed.
4. Even though we disagree with the decision of the Respondents in this case, we have no ground to believe that there was deliberate denial of information on their part. Moreover, the Complainant was not present, in spite of a written notice having been sent to her, to substantiate her complaint. In view of the foregoing, we do not consider it necessary to enquire further into this complaint.
5. With the above observations, the complaint is disposed of.
6. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Smt. Savitri Devi Verma v. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd. In File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/000146