CIC pulls up PMO over RTI query on Sonia visits

CIC pulls up PMO over RTI query on Sonia visits

CIC pulls up PMO over RTI query on Sonia visits

Chief Information Commissioner Satyanand Mishra expressed displeasure as the Prime Minister’s Office forwarded the RTI plea seeking information on the Congress president’s visits to foreign countries, first to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and then to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.

Ramesh Verma of Hisar in Haryana filed an RTI application with the PMO in February last year, seeking information on Gandhi’s foreign visits, the costs incurred on the visits and the benefits and purpose of those trips abroad.

“It seems the Parliamentary Affairs ministry had informed that the Central government had incurred no expenditure on the foreign visits of Sonia Gandhi during the last 10 years. However, the Cabinet Secretariat has no knowledge if any information has been given to the applicant in respect of her foreign visits as chairperson of the NAC,” Mishra observed, while directing the PMO to provide details to Verma.

After receiving Verma’s application on February 26, 2010, the PMO forwarded it to the  MEA on March 16, 2010. It was then moved to the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry on March 26, 2010. Pulling up the PMO for “casual handling” of the RTI application, Mishra directed it to ensure, in the future, that information-seeking pleas should be sent to the concerned ministries only.

“One thing is for sure that, in this case, the RTI request has been handled very casually. It was originally addressed to the CPIO of the PMO. The CPIO should have taken care to find out which exact ministry in the Central government was concerned and should have transferred the application to that ministry or ministries. Instead, the application was forwarded from one place to another, resulting in so much delay,” Mishra noted.

Though neither Gandhi, nor the Congress has made any comment on the CIC’s order, a senior party leader pointed out that the Gandhi rarely travelled abroad and most of her visits were personal. Party insiders could not recall if she had ever made a visit abroad as NAC chairperson.

Gandhi’ last public visit abroad was to London in March when she delivered the 14th Commonwealth Lecture on “Women as an Agent of Change.” She was invited by the Commonwealth Foundation to deliver the lecture.