Central Information Commission (CIC) issued notices to several Chief Public Information Officers (CPIO), National Informatics Centre (NIC) and the National eGovernance Division (NeGD) over their reply to an RTI query about the creators of Aarogya Setu app. The RTI application filed by Saurav Das a couple of months back had requested information regarding the creators of Aarogya Setu app, for which the concerned departments failed to give a satisfactory reply.
The complainant stated that the CPIO, NeGD and Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) did not provide any information on his RTI query. Noting that the NIC had claimed that it did not hold the information regarding the app’s creation, “which is very surprising since it is the App’s developer. Now MeitY also has not provided any information relating to the App’s creation and other matters.”
The complainant further argued that “there seems to be a pattern among these public authorities to wilfully withhold information from any applicant asking for this information as no public authority has any details about any of the questions as asked which to him seems out-rightly false, malafide and done with an effort to frustrate and harass the applicant to give up.”
After hearing all concerned parties in this case, the CIC observed that “the denial of information by all the concerned authorities cannot be accepted at all.” If further stated that the “CPIO NIC also should explain that when in the website it is mentioned that Aarogya Setu Platform is designed, developed and hosted by National Informatics Centre, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, Government of India, then how is it that they do not have any information about creation of the App.”
The CIC in its interim decision issued show-cause notices to the concerned CPIOs and asked them “to explain why penalty u/s 20 of the RTI Act should not be imposed on them for prima facie obstruction of information and providing an evasive reply.” The order also asked the CPIO, NIC to provide details about their role in the creation of Aarogya Setu website.
After the CIC issued show-cause notices, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) issued a clarification regarding the issue. Noting that it was taking proper steps to comply with the CIC’s order, it clarified that the Aarogya Setu app “was launched by Government of India in public private partnership mode to bring people of India together in its fight against COVID19.”