New Delhi, Feb 27: The Central Information Commission has asked the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to release the records of expenses incurred on chartering Air India aircraft for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign visits between 2013 to 2017.
Earlier, the MEA said that details of the amount, reference numbers, dates of bills raised by Indian Air Force and Air India for the foreign visits undertaken by the Prime Minister are scattered across various records. Hence, the process to collect all these details a significant number of officials, it added.
However, Chief Information Commissioner R K Mathur rejected the contention of the MEA, saying payment of outstanding dues would ultimately require collating of these bills and invoices, reported news agency PTI. He said even if payment was made against these bills, it would have been done after compiling of bills/invoices.
Further, whatever payment is to be made, it needs to be done after collecting the bills/invoices. In view of this, the Commission is of the opinion that the respondent (MEA) should provide to the appellant (Batra) travel bills relating to Air India from FYs. 2013-14 to 2016-17, he said.
Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retd) had sought to know details of bills, invoices and other records related to abroad visits of Prime Minister between Financial Years 2013-14 and 2016-17. He approached the CIC, which is the top appellate authority in matters pertaining to the Right to Information Act after he received incomplete information.
According to Batra, he wanted the general public to be informed at what stage or with which public authority these bills and invoices are pending for payment. Air India is a cash-strapped airline that does not make money. Therefore, delay in settling these bills would also include sizable interest figure(s), which needs to be paid at the expense of taxpayers money, he said.