The Central Information Commission has directed the Ministry of External Affairs to disclose the amount of money spent to charter Air India aircraft for the prime minister’s foreign visits from 2013 to 2017, reported PTI.
The ministry had told the commission that details of the amount, reference numbers, dates of bills and other particulars related to the trips are scattered across various files and will take a lot of manpower and time to collect.
Rejecting the statement, Chief Information Commissioner RK Mathur said officials would have to collate these bills eventually to pay the dues. “In view of this, the Commission is of the opinion that the respondent [MEA] should provide to the appellant travel bills relating to Air India from FYs [financial years] 2013-14 to 2016-17,” he said.
The case pertains to a petition by retired naval officer Lokesh Batra, who had sought to know the details under the Right to Information Act. Batra approached the commission after the ministry did not give him sufficient information. The records cannot be hidden “under the garb of national security”, he said.
“Air India is a cash-strapped airline that does not make money,” Batra said. “Therefore, delay in settling these bills would also include sizeable interest figure, which needs to be paid at the expense of tax payers money.”