Should the payments made to British individuals/firms relating to Commonwealth Games be disclosed under RTI?
The appellant sought a variety of information relating to a reported letter written by the British Prime Minister to the Prime Minister of India concerning payments to various British individuals and firms in connection with the Commonwealth Games. The Public Information Officer (PIO) refused to disclose the contents of the correspondence under section 8(1)(a) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence; and 8(1)(f) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information received in confidence from foreign Government; of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant wondered if the letter of the British Prime Minister could be entirely treated to be confidential and not disclosable. The respondent submitted that it was a confidential communication between two Prime Ministers and it contained information which, if disclosed, had the potential to affect the friendly relations between both the countries and so it should not be disclosed.
View of CIC
The Central Information Commission (CIC) rejected the appeal observing that the letter received from the British Prime Minister on the above subject squarely falls within the exemption provision of section 8 (1)(f) of the RTI Act and cannot be disclosed for the reasons pointed out by the respondent.
With the economic diplomacy taking a front seat in the foreign policy, there are likely to be many such requests under the RTI Act. It would be difficult to draw a line between pure commerce and foreign policy and with increasing stakes for disclosure; the intervention of judiciary is likely to increase in such matters.
Citation: Mr. Subhash Chandra Agarwal v. Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of External Affairs, Department of Sports, in File No.CIC/SM/A/2011/001823
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/545
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission