Navy refuses info on phased-out helicopters got from the US

The Navy, which was criticised by the country's top auditor for a deal "which would ultimately compromise operational effectiveness", has cited national security to withhold information about it.

In reply to an RTI application seeking details about the deal which came under fire from the CAG, the Navy cited section 8(1)(a) of the transparency law to deny the information.

The section exempts disclosure of information 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'.

"The information sought by you is classified in nature, hence exempt from disclosure under section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act," Commander-at-arms S K Gupta at Integrated Headquarters Defence Ministry replied to RTI applications filed by activist S C Agrawal.

The Navy had acquired six decommissioned UH3H helicopters under the Foreign Military Supply (FMS) programme of the United States in November 2006, along with training and support facilities at an approximate cost of Rs 182.14 crore.

The 35-40 years old helicopters "were on the verge of completing their air frame life and are on extended life", noted CAG in its recent report.

"These helicopters were delivered with many defects including Category A 12 defects resulting in nonavailability of the helicopters leading to delay in training and the operationalisation of the squadron," it had said.

In his appeal against the decision of the Commander-at-Arms, Agarawal said: "Section 8 clearly states that any information which is not denied to Parliament or state-legislature, cannot be denied under RTI Act. Since report of Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) is presented to Parliament, any query relating to CAG strictures on purchase of defective choppers cannot be denied under RTI Act."

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