While the Rs.3,500 crore Augusta Westland scandal is grabbing the headlines on and off since 2013, on Tuesday, Central Information Commissioner Divya Prakash Sinha, has given a people-friendly verdict, by directing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to supply partial information to the second appeal filed by RTI applicant, within 15 days of the order.
The CIC order directs the MoD “to provide details of court cases in Italian courts in which India is a party and provide names of Italian advocates and law firms hired in India.’’ MoD has also been asked to provide copy of Attorney General’s opinion on sending back already procured helicopters. It also directs the MoD to provide details of Bank Guarantee amount received back by India.
Here, it may be recalled that Indian government is encashed guarantees from Italian banks to the tune of Rs.2,000 odd crore.
The crucial information which CIC upheld of information denied by the Public Information Officer is as follows:
• All documents related to file notings/ documents/ correspondence/ agreement on signing of Augusta Westland deal is in custody of CBI, the same cannot be disclosed
• Files and document s relating to termination of Augusta Westland deal be shown to the CIC before 15th June, so that it can take a call on whether they come under Section 8(1) (a) and (h).
In order to understand, the information sought by noted RTI activist Subhashchandra Agrawal, following were the details mentioned in his RTI application addressed to various PIOs of MoD:
• No. of helicopters already supplied to India mentioning also respective dates of supplies mentioning also delivery schedule for rest of the contracted helicopters
• Total cost of helicopters and terms of payment mentioning also payment already made with dates of respective payments
• Amount of bank guarantee and name (and branch) of the bank providing the said bank ¬guarantee
• Has amount held in bank guarantee been received by India?
• If yes, provide details
• Will the already procured helicopters be sent back to the company having delivered the same to India?
• Complete information together with related file¬ notings and correspondence/ documents etc on sending back already procured helicopters
• Complete information together with related file notings/ correspondence etc on action taken to recover payment already made by India towards the said helicopters as in queries above
• Names of Indians and foreigners (with their earlier and present postings) under scanner for receiving kickbacks in the deal in the Italian Court revealing full forms of suspected ones like “POL”, “AP”, “FAM” etc mentioning also amount of kickbacks reported in Italian Court
• Is India also a party to the court matter in Italian Court?
• If yes, names of advocates hired mentioning their respective fees to represent India in Italian courts
• Names of Indian and foreigners (with their earlier and present postings) under scanner for receiving kickbacks in the deal in the Italian court revealing full forms of suspected ones like “POL”, “AP”, “FAM” etc
• Names of persons (with their earlier and present postings) for which CBI has sought permission for interrogation/ prosecution etc
• Names of persons (with their earlier and present postings) for which interrogation have already been imitated in India
• Complete information together with related file notings and correspondence/ documents etc on Union government not allowing interrogation etc by CBI for alleged kickbacks in the said helicopter deal as referred in queries above mentioning also if MK Narayan and B V Wanchoo are amongst such persons against whom CBI has sought permission for interrogation etc
• Any other related information
• File¬ notings on movement of this RTI¬ petition
Grounds for the Second Appeal:
At the CIC hearing, Agrawal argued that, “if details sought in information can be accessed through foreign sources, there is no reason that the same should not be disclosed under RTI Act.’’ The CIC order states, “He (Agrawal) mentioned that the information has to be made public in public interest.”
MoD’s PIO argued that, “the CBI investigation in connection with the alleged scam relating to VVIP/VIP Helicopter deal is still continuing. CBI has time and again advised MoD that disclosure of any information related to this case will impede the process of investigation and disclosure of the same is exempt under section 8(1)(h). He further said the exemption under section 8(1)(h) of RTI is also applicable to the case because Arbitration Proceedings are on to recover the already paid amount to the supplier. Keeping in view the nature of the case and stakes involved, disclosure of information related to the case could impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of the offenders as well as Arbitration Proceeding.”http://www.moneylife.in/article/cic-orders-ministry-of-defence-to-release-partial-information-on-augusta-westland-helicopters/47035.html