An RTI application was filed with NITI Ayog seeking information concerning NEGVAC as required to be mandatorily disclosed by a public authority - CIC: Seeking to declare NEGVAC as a public authority does not arise for consideration in the instant case
The Appellant filed an RTI application dated 29.04.2022 with NITI AYOG seeking the following information:
“I have come to know that the NEGVAC is a body constituted by order of Central Government, on or about 7 August 2020, vide File F No: 272/2/13/2020- CA IF of GOVERNMENT OF INDIA after obtaining the approval of President of India (competent authority).
Accordingly, I believe that NEGVAC is a public authority, as defined in Right to information Act 2005, which is presently functioning under Niti Aayog in conjunction with D/o Health and Family Welfare.
More than 120 days have elapsed since setting up of the NEGVAC, however, I am yet to have access to the proactive information under section 4 ATI ACT 2005 I am entitled to. Hence NEGVAC is not implementing RTI Act in letter or spirit. Accordingly, since I am the National Convenor of INDIA AGAINST CORRUPTION jan andolan (IAC), I am impelled to bring transparency, to improve accountability and to reduce avenues for corruption, via RTL
NB, in similar case (where I was Complainant in CIC/ MA/C/2009/0000366/55 dated 5.03.2008) the Central information Commission held UIDAI to be a public authority in its own right, albeit then temporarily functioning under erstwhile Planning Commission i.e. predecessor of Niti Aayog
Accordingly please provide me the following mandatory information concerning/relating to NEGVAC.
1. Catalog and index of all records maintained by NEGVAC
2. The particulars of the organisation, functions and duties
3. The norms set by it for the discharge of its functions, including its CODE OF PRACTICE and its CODE OF ETHICS. If any
4. The rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records, held by it or under its control or used by its employees for discharging its functions.
5. A statement of the categories of documents that are held by it or under its control
6. Particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorisations granted by it.
7. Details in respect of the information, available to or held by it, reduced in an electronic form
8. The names, designations and other particulars of the Public Information Officers
9. Covid-19 vaccine operational guidelines
10. Covid-19 human vaccines Interchangeability SOP
11. Status of peer reviewed published information on COVID-19 human vaccine interchangeability
12. Minutes of all meetings of NEGVAC for the year 2020
13. Copy of the complete approval issued by competent authority, including the terms of reference, if any, for constituting the NEGVAC
14. Copy of all NEGVAC guidance, recommendations or approvals, if any, for mass immunization of Indian population against COVID-19”
Relevant Facts emerging during Hearing:
The following were present:-
Appellant: Not present.
Respondent: Surendra Kumar Patnaik, Section Officer & CPIO, H & FW Vertical along with Manvendra Singh Rathore, Asstt. Director & CAPIO, CVAC Cell, Dept. of H&FW, Ministry of H & FW along with Balvendar Singh present in person.
At the outset, the Commission took on record the objection letter sent by the Appellant on 17.09.2023 against the hearing notice issued to him stating inter alia as under:
“b) Notice of “single bench” hearing has been served upon me through bench Registry in contempt of Delhi High Court Judgment/Order dated 21.05.2010 in WP(C) 12714/2009 (DDA v. CIC & Anr). The said Order was in force on 11.09.2023, as the ad-interim stay (in respect of its para-34 in so far as it relates to the power to constitute Benches by the Chief Information Commissioner) granted in SLP No. 30152/2010 (CIC v. DDA & Anr) / CA No. 2230/2012 (CIC v. DDA & Anr), was vacated by the Supreme Court’s dismissal Order dated 24.08.2023 in CA No. 2230/2012 and was not restored till 12.09.2023.”
The registry attached with the bench also informed that the Appellant who was present in person in the Commission on the date and time of the scheduled hearing verbally reaffirmed to the designated Deputy Registrar that he will not be attending the hearing.
Surendra Kumar Patnaik, Section Officer & CPIO, H & FW Vertical, NITI AYOG submitted as under:
“The RTI application dated 29.04.2022 has been forwarded to CPIO, Dept of H&FW on 6th May 2022 as its related to NEGVAC, pertains to Dept of H&FW.
NEGVAC constituted by Cabinet Secretariat on 07.08.2020 under the Chairmanship of Dr.V.K.Paul, Hon'ble Member(Health), NITI Aayog and Co-chaired by Secretary, D/o. Health & Family Welfare along with Secretaries and representatives from different States. The high level meetings on machine mode continued with the team on rotational basis and overall works, responsibilities shouldered on Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. NITI Aayog does not have such kind of information in office records. The secretariat's support to NEGVAC for conveying such type of meetings, notices, minutes etc. was provided by Department of Health & Family Welfare only. It is once again confirmed that, no role has been played by NITI Aayog in NEGVAC.”
Manvendra Singh Rathore, Asstt. Director & CAPIO, CVAC Cell, Dept. of H&FW, Ministry of H & FW submitted that upon receipt of the RTI Application, a detailed reply was provided to the Appellant on 31.05.2022 stating as under:
“Your RTI application has been received from RTI Cell, MoHFW/other CPIO. As far as this Office/CPIO L.e. COVID-19 Vaccine Administration Cell (CVAC), MoHFW/Undersigned CPIO is concerned, the information/reply is as under.
1. The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) is serviced by Dept of Health & Family Welfare in view of Terms of Reference of the NEGVAC and holding the records in respect of Minutes of Meeting of NEGVAC only.
2. A National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) has been established by the Government of India which provides guidance on all aspects of COVID-19 vaccination including prioritization of population groups, procurement and inventory management, vaccine selection, vaccine delivery and tracking mechanism etc.
3 to 7 & 12 to 14. Information/documents as sought is exempted 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; of RTI Act, 2005 as disclosure of which would pre-judicially affect the scientific and strategic interests of the State. As these meeting includes discussion on various other matter in addition to above and there may be a chance of misuse of information. Further, it is stated that for COVID-19 Vaccination related information/guidelines/Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)/Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)/data/statistics etc as the case may be, on the basis of decision taken by NEGVAC is proactively disclosed by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare for the General Public on the various Platforms. For this, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare s website (www.mohfw.gov.in) or COWIN portal (https://www.cowin.gov.in) or Press Information Bureau, Government of India s website (www.pib.gov.in) may be visited. These websites are being updated from time to time.
8. In so far as this office Le. COVID-19 Vaccine Administration Cell (CVAC) is concerned, particulars of CPIO is Satyendra Singh, Under Secretary, CVAC, MOHFW, Nirman Bhawan, New Delhi.
9. You may refer COVID-19 vaccine operational guidelines (28.12.2020) available on the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s website https://www.mohfw.gov.in/covid_vaccination/vaccination/dist/images/document s/COVID19VaccineOG111 Chapter16.pdf
10 & 11. As per record of this office/CPIO, at present, there is no such recommendation from the domain experts. In case, you want to go for an appeal in connection with the information provided, you may appeal to the Shri Sachin Kumar, Deputy Secretary & First Appellate Authority, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Nirman Bhawan, New Delhi within 30 days…”
At the outset, the Commission rejects the objection of the Appellant to the issuance of the hearing notice to him and decides to adjudicate the case based on merits of the contents of the Second Appeal.
The Commission having perused the facts on record observes that the CPIOs of NITI AYOG and CVAC Cell, Dept. of H&FW, Ministry of H & FW have replied to the instant RTI Application as per the provisions of the RTI Act leaving no scope of intervention at this stage.
As for the grounds of appeal seeking to declare NEGVAC as a public authority, the Commission finds that the said issue does not arise for consideration in the instant case.
The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
Citation: Sarbajit Roy v. NITI Aayog, CIC/NITIA/A/2022/648177; Date of Decision: 02/11/2023