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Delhi HC seeks Centre's stand on plea challenging MHA's refusal to provide information on electronic surveillance

ANI | Updated: Nov 12, 2021 14:52 IST

New Delhi [India], November 12 (ANI): The Delhi High Court on Friday sought the Centre's stand on plea challenging the Ministry of Home Affairs' (MHA) refusal to provide information on electronic surveillance.
Justice Yashwant Varma asked Centre's counsel to seek instructions on the plea and listed the matter for further hearing on December 2.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Apar Gupta, a lawyer, and the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), a registered charitable trust that defends online freedom, privacy and innovation in India through strategic litigation and campaigns.
Senior advocate Trideep Pais, who argued for the petitioner, was briefed by advocate Vrinda Bhandari.
The petitioner said he is constrained to file the petition seeking a direction to set aside final order dated July 30, 2021, issued by respondent the First Appellate Authority notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the Right to Information Act 2005, whereby respondent refused to disclose any information sought by the petitioner regarding issuance of orders passed under Section 69 of the Information Technology Act 2000 on inter alia the ground that "no such information, for the period of reference, was available with the CPIO".

The petitioner submitted that the impugned order is ex facie contrary to law and fact, insofar as the FAA proceeded upon an erroneous understanding of the legal position as well as failed to sufficiently examine the bald averment belatedly made by Central Public Information Officer Cyber and Information Security, Ministry of Home Affairs, that data sought by the petitioner was no longer available as it had been destroyed.
"The FAA failed to appreciate that the conduct of the Respondent No 1 (Central Public InformationOfficer, Ministry of Home Affairs) in destroying information sought by petitioner during the pendency of proceedings under the RTI Act was ex facie illegal, mala fide and designed to obstruct the exercise of rights guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Constitution of India 1950, whilst simultaneously violating the essence and spirit of the RTI Act, " the petitioner said.
The petitioner has sought to declare that the conduct of MHA in weeding out or destroying the information that was the subject matter of proceedings under the RTI Act, during the pendency of such proceedings, is illegal and to issue direction to CPIO to provide the information sought for by the petitioner in his RTIs dated December 28, 2018.
The petitioner has also sought direction to frame appropriate guidelines and directions to prevent the destruction of information sought in RTI proceedings on account of statutory and executive rules or practices on weeding out of documents, during the pendency of RTI proceedings and adequate preservation of the same.
The petitioner said that he had filed six RTI applications in December 2018 seeking information about Electronic Surveillance orders passed under Section 69 of the IT Act, which was denied on the grounds of national security. (ANI)