The Andhra Pradesh government has rejected a Right to Information (RTI) petition seeking the expenditures incurred by Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and his son, IT Minister Nara Lokesh, in the state-sponsored foreign tours they have undertaken ever since they occupied their positions.
The RTI was rejected the RTI citing section 8(1)(E) of the RTI Act 2005 (information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information).
N Nagarjuna Reddy, an activist and journalist based in Ongole, had filed this petition in February seeking information on six different matters. He sought information of the CM’s and Lokesh’s foreign trips, how much was paid for the security provided to the CM’s family and how much expense was incurred when Chandrababu’s official residence was built.
When TNM contacted Nagarjuna Reddy, he alleged that the government was trying violate the spirit of RTI Act. “The same section allows the government to disclose the information if it is for larger public interest. So why was this section quoted while rejecting the plea?”
He also said that the government should have provided the information as they dubbed their visits as official.
“Several times, the government claimed that it is running on a very low budget. Then it should be shown if the CM made these visits on his own expense. If it was paid for by the government, then it should be shown how many investments and jobs these trips have borne.”
The Opposition, YSRCP, came down heavily on the government and accused it of violating the RTI Act.
YSRCP senior leader, Vasireddy Padma, told TNM, “It would be fair for the government to share this information, for it raises doubts otherwise.”
She further demanded, “The government should voluntarily give the information since they claim the state is running on a low budget and that its financial health is very poor.”
Another YSRCP leader, Ongole MP YV Subba Reddy, found fault with the government for denying information to an activist. “Who is he (the CM) to stop information being sought on genuine grounds? Why are they scared to give information if nothing is wrong?”
He further alleged that he had once asked Chandrababu Naidu a similar question, but didn’t receive a reply.
He also accused the government of not appointing an Information Commissioner: “He knows that if he appoints someone, they will give the information he doesn’t want to share.”
Nagarjuna Reddy said he is now planning to appeal again at the Information Commissioner's office and the High Court.