The Prime Minister's Office has refused to reveal to an RTI applicant the information about people who had sought an appointment to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying this would be prejudicial to the country's security and integrity.
Rohit Kumar who had sought the information under the Right to Information Act termed the answer "ridiculous", and said he would appeal.
The chief public information officer (CPIO) in the PMO in response to the RTI query by Rohit Kumar - a third-year student of Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology in Odisha - cited concerns for the sovereignty, integrity, security and the strategic interest to hold back the information sought by him.
The prime minister meets people both formally and informally in connection with the functioning of the government and other issues and revealing this information may have "prejudicial effect on the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the state and relations with foreign states, as well as confidential third party information," the PMO said in its reply.
Declining the information, it said, "...there may be instances of such meeting being exempt from disclosure of information under Sections 8(1) and 11 of the Right to Information Act."
"Sometimes, persons meeting even request the very fact of the meeting having taken place be kept secret," it said in response to Rohit Kumar's query seeking details of individuals whose request for appointment was granted and who had met the prime minister and how many of those were from a business background.
A disappointed Rohit Kumar said: "It is ridiculous. How the sovereignty, security, unity and integrity of the country is threatened by the disclosure of information about the people who had met or meet the prime minister upon the grant of the request for the same?"
He told IANS in an email that he would file an appeal challenging the refusal of information.
"This is indeed an unfortunate era going on for all the activists. All the rights-based laws are being questioned like MGNREGA, RTI Act, Land Acquisition Act etc."
"The PMO has become the biggest rejector of RTI applications. So, this type of blatant opaqueness in the governance process is a huge threat to the democratic structure of the nation," he said.
He also noted that it was not just the PMO which was declining requests for information sought under the RTI but all the departments under the present government were likewise stonewalling information.