In a strange development, the National Informatics Centre has said in an RTI reply that it does not have any information on the development of the Aarogya Setu app, inviting sharp criticism from the Central Information Commission. The CIC has issued show-cause notices to Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY), National Informatics Centre, and National E-Governance Division (NeGD), asking them why penalty should not be imposed on them for prima facie obstruction of information and providing an evasive reply on an RTI application related to Aarogya Setu App.
The CIC was responding to a complaint filed by one Saurav Das, stating that the NIC, MeitY and NeGD had failed to provide information related to the process of creation of the Aarogya Setu app. The complainant said that when he had filed a RTI with the NIC, he got a respond saying that it does not have any information, which was surprising as NIC is the developer of the app. He added that MeitY and NeGD also failed to provide any information to the creation of the app.
Responding to the complaint, CIC has asked NIC to explain when the website of Arogya Setu mentions that it is designed, developed and hosted by it, then how is it possible that it does not have any information regarding to creation of the app. “The Commission directs the CPIO, NIC to explain this matter in writing as to how the website https://aarogyasetu.gov.in/ was created with the domain name gov.in, if they do not have any information about it,” Information Commissioner Vanaja N. Sarna further ordered.
The CIC order stated that none of the CPIOs (Central Public Information Officer) was able to explain anything regarding who created the app, where are the files, saying that the same is extremely preposterous.
The Commission observed that the authorities transferred the RTI application to one-another, but didn’t provide any information as sought by application. “Denial of information by all the concerned authorities cannot be accepted at all…Sec 6(3) of the RTI Act cannot be used by public authorities to push off the matter,” the order stated. The CIC also said that the creation of the app is a recent development and it not possible that there were no files related to it.
CIC criticised the NeGD for taking two months to reply that the matter is not related to them. The ministry also could not submit any information related the development of the app, except informing that there were some inputs from NITI Ayog. The ministry CPIO could not explain why it does not have information regarding the app.
Although the applicant had raised the matter of privacy concerns related to the app also, the CIC refrained from making any remarks on the privacy aspect, while pulling up the authorities for evasive replies to the RTI application. “The addressees cannot simply wash their hands off by stating that the information is not available with them. Some effort should have been put in to find out the custodian(s) of the information sought, by the concerned public authorities when apparently they are the relevant parties,” the order stated.
Saying the behaviour of the three organisations is “extremely preposterous”, the CIC issued summons to the CPIOs of MeITY, NeGD and NIC to be present before it on November 24. Apart from that, the CIC asked the MeitY to inform which official is responsible for maintaining the app, as the website of the app mentions that its content is owned, updated and maintained by the MyGov, MeitY. The Commissioner further ordered the registry to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, the ID mentioned in the website, directing them to send the concerned authority to be present before the Commission on the next date of hearing.