The Central Information Commission has directed the defence ministry to disclose the names of ministers and officials who had given the go-ahead for the procurement of six “phased out” helicopters from the US, for which it had received a rap from the CAG.
The Indian Navy had earlier refused to disclose any information about the deal saying disclosure would compromise national security and cited exemption under section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act to withhold the details.
RTI applicant Subhash Agrawal had sought from the Navy information about the deal including the objections raised by the CAG, the replies given by force, and the names of ministers, defence secretaries and other officials who had cleared it.
Hearing Agrawal’s plea, information commissioner ML Sharma asked the Navy to give reasons why the information which was already in public domain because of the CAG report was being withheld.
A Navy official said they cannot tell who the ministers who handled the file were and that defence ministry would be in the best position to explain it.
Sharma then ordered the defence ministry to provide the names of its ministers and secretaries who had handled the file.
Sharma said as per transparency law any information which can be provided to Parliament or any state Assembly cannot be withheld from RTI applicants.
The Navy had acquired six decommissioned UH3H helicopters under the Foreign Military Supply programme of the US in November 2006, along with training and support facilities at an approximate cost of R182.14 crore.
CAG found that the procurement “would ultimately compromise operational effectiveness” of the force.