CIC orders disclosure of records of Agusta Westland deal

27 May 2016

In a pro-disclosure order, the Central Information Commission has directed the defence ministry to divulge some records related to Agusta Westland VVIP helicopters deal, including records related to court proceedings in Italy.

Information Commissioner Divya Prakash Sinha has sought records related to the termination of the controversial deal to be presented in camera before the commission decides whether they should be disclosed under Right to Information (RTI) Act. "Files and documents relating to termination of Agusta Westland deal be shown to the Commission in camera before June 15, 2016. Commission will examine application of Section 8 (1) (a) and (h) in claiming exemption from disclosure of files and documents by the CPIO," Sinha said in his order. The Commission will also decide if certain portions of documents and files can be disclosed under RTI by applying the severability clause.

Hearing the appeal of RTI activist Subhash Agrawal, Sinha directed the defence ministry to disclose details of bank guarantee amount received back by India, Attorney-General's opinion on sending back procured helicopters, details of court cases in Italian courts and names of Italian advocates and law firms hired to represent India in Italian courts. Agrawal had filed the RTI application in January 2014 but was denied information. He had filed the second appeal before the commission in April 2014. Two years after the filing of the appeal, CIC has finally taken a view.

Responding to RTI application of Agrawal, who had sought information on various points of the controversial deal for 12 VVIP helicopters from Agusta Westland in which allegations of corruption have surfaced, defence ministry has cited ongoing CBI investigation to deny the information. "CPIO stated 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)," Sinha noted. The CPIO 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, he pointed out.


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