Reveal cost of Shah’s Z+ security

The refusal of the Central Information Commission (CIC) to disclose the expenditure on the security cover for BJP president Amit Shah is wrong and against public interest. A petitioner, Deepak Juneja, has been seeking the information since July 2014. He was stalled at every stage and now the CIC has finally denied it to him, citing exemptions relating to “personal information’’ and “security’’. Both grounds are untenable and unacceptable. The petitioner had also sought to know the list of private persons who had been provided security, and the rules governing the grant of such security. These were also denied to him on much the same grounds. The denial is against the spirit of the RTI Act which gives citizens the right to know, among other things, how public money is spent. 

Amit Shah did not hold any constitutional or statutory office in 2014 when he was given Z-plus security by the government. He is an MP now but was only the president of his party then. Money from the exchequer has been spent on providing him security and citizens have the right to know how much was spent. The two sections of the RTI law which were cited to grant exemptions for disclosure of information are not relevant in the case. Section 8(1)(g) exempts from disclosure any information that would endanger the life and security of a person. Section 8(1)(j) exempts information disclosure of which will amount to an unwarranted invasion of privacy. The CIC has rejected the petitioner’s request through a wrong interpretation of these provisions. It is difficult to imagine how the disclosure of the money spent by the State might endanger the life of the protected person. The claim is only as good as the claim that the disclosure of the price of the Rafale aircraft would endanger national security, or that an RTI query asking for authentic information and certificates on the prime minister’s or a union minister’s educational qualification is an invasion of their privacy.

Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad mentioned even the right to privacy as a ground to stonewall the request. But the disclosure, as sought by the petitioner, cannot be considered an invasion of privacy. What is involved in the question about the expenditure on Amit Shah’s security and other related queries is public interest, which should be the criterion for the working of any law. Claims of privacy and other technicalities should not be used to derail the working of a transparency law and the public interest inherent in it. Unfortunately, the RTI Act is being undermined or increasingly rendered ineffective in various ways. The denial of the information sought by the petitioner should be reviewed, as he has the right to know how much money was spent in this case.

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Reveal cost of Shah’s Z+ security

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