New Delhi: India’s reasons for agreeing to a cost escalation by the Russian side for refurbished aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov should not be made public in national and diplomatic interest, the defence ministry has said in the Delhi high court, challenging an order of the central information commission.
The CIC had directed the defence ministry to disclose reasons why the country chose a refurbished warship in place of purchasing a new one and the net final cost including the expenditure on the modifications, renovations and remodelling done on the now 30-year-old ship and dates of payments made by India.
However, through a a writ petition, the defence ministry claimed the Inter Governmental Agreement between India and Russia bars the disclosure of such details and would come under the RTI Act’s exemption clause.
“The IGA in clause 9 specifically states the sides not to disclose the contents of the present agreement as well as all the correspondence and information related to its implementation without mutual consent.” The ministry said any further information related to payments made by India or acceptance of upward revision in cost and time was not only bound by the clauses of the IGA but would also constitute a breach of parliamentary privileges and be prejudicial to the interest of the country.
The deal for purchasing the ship, rechristened INS Vikramaditya, was signed in 2004 by the then NDA government at $974 million. The cost was raised to the final price of $2.35 billion in 2010.
Information commissioner Amitava Bhattacharya had ordered the disclosure of information last year on a plea of activist Subhash Agrawal about cost escalation and others issues. The court has now asked Agrawal to appear before it on the matter on April 5.