The External Affairs Ministry has been asked by Central information commission to divulge records of expenses that were incurred by the government for chartering aircrafts owned by Air India for overseas visits of Prime Minister Modi between 2013 and 2017. Though the petition had been rejected earlier about it being a tedious process of pulling out data from flies scattered across various departments, the chief information commissioner has dismissed the contention and directed the ministry to furnish the details as requested by petitioner. The issue was raised by Commodore Lokesh Batra who had sought details bills and invoices of overseas visits of PM Modi between 2013–2014 and 2016–2017
In his petition before the Commission Mr. Batra complained that the details given to him by the external affairs ministry under Right to Information Act were incomplete. He said that his intention to gather these details was for information about bills pending payment at various agencies which could later be shown to the general public. Mr. Batra had asked for detailed information about bills raised by government owned aviation agencies Air India and Air Force with details of exact amount, reference numbers, bill dates etc.
The external affairs ministry had stated that this information would involve searching for details through voluminous records by several officials leading to disproportionate diversion of essential resources. As public carrier Air India is cash strapped agency which is running at a loss, delay in settling these large bills would lead to interest accumulation that would be paid by tax payer’s money. Mr. Batra brushed aside the MEA’s contention that the information would compromise national security as the details were in public domain. After hearing arguments from both sides, the Central Information Commissioner Mr. Mathur stated that payments could be made even after collating the bills and invoices required by Mr. Batra and would not lead to wastage of resources.