`Make public recommendations of dignitaries for Haj quota`

The External Affairs Ministry had refused to provide the information in reply to a RTI query.

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission has directed the External Affairs Ministry to make public recommendations for allotment of government`s Haj quota made by the President, the Prime Minister and other dignitaries during the last five years.

The External Affairs Ministry had refused to provide the information in reply to a RTI query saying it was confidential and cannot be provided.

Rejecting the contentions of the ministry, Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi directed it that any information sought by an applicant can only be denied within the ambit of exemption clauses of the RTI Act.

He directed the ministry to provide these details before October 10.

About 1.70 lakh pilgrims from India visit Saudi Arabia for Haj every year. According to the ministry, government`s own quota for this year is 6,000. This quota is normally
filled through recommendations of VIPs like President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, ministers, MPs and other dignitaries.

Mumbai-based RTI applicant AM Attar had sought from the External Affairs Ministry details of recommendation letters during the past five years which was denied to him.

When the matter reached before the CIC, Attar said the information provided to him was incomplete and unsatisfactory.

Upholding the views of Attar, Gandhi said, "RTI is a fundamental rights of citizens and denial of information can only be based on section 8(1) of the RTI Act. If the PIO claims any other reasons for refusing the information, not based on section 8(1) of the RTI Act, the penal provisions of the Section 20(1) would be invoked."


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