The Centre has rejected an RTI plea seeking details of security clearance given to the GSTN, information-technology backbone of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), citing national security. In response to a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Home Ministry said that the details sought on the GSTN were related to national security and cannot be given.
Aggrieved over the denial of information, an appeal was filed. The response given by the officer concerned is upheld and the appeal is disposed of, the Home Ministry said in response to the RTI appeal filed by a PTI correspondent. The Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN), a not-for- profit private limited company, has 51 per cent equity of five private institutions -- HDFC Bank Ltd (10 per cent), HDFC Ltd (10 per cent), ICICI Bank Ltd (10 per cent), NSE Strategic Investment Corporation Ltd (10 per cent) and LIC Housing Finance Limited (11 per cent). The central government has 24.5 per cent equity in GSTN, whereas state governments, two Union territories and empowered committee of state finance ministers together hold another 24.5 per cent stake in it. An organisation representing indirect tax employees has raised concerns over the management pattern of the GSTN with majority stake in private hands. It had said since the GSTN is funded by the central and state governments, there is no justification in entrusting its management to private individuals with heavy salary and allowances. BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has also opposed the majority stake for private entities in the GSTN and has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over it. The Home Ministry was asked to provide details of security clearance given to the GSTN through the RTI application. "It is informed that you have sought information regarding security clearance which relates to national security clearance. "Any information related to security purpose is exempted from disclosure as per provisions of Section 8 (1) (g) of the RTI Act, 2005. Hence, the information sought cannot be provided," the Ministry had said. The Section bars information disclosure which "would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes". As per the provisions of the transparency law, an information seeker can file the first appeal with the authorities concerned in case he is dissatisfied with the reply given by a Central Public Information Officer of a government department. The second appeal against the order of First Appellate Authority is filed with the Central Information Commission (CIC).