The Central Information Commission (CIC) has issued show-cause notices to the chief public information officers at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and the NeGD (National E-Governance division) after their evasive reply to an RTI application that sought information about who created the ‘aarogya setu’ application. The NIC, which comes under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, designs the government websites.
The CIC also has sought explanation from the NIC on why they do not have any information about the creation of the Aarogya Setu app when it is written in the app that it has been developed, designed and hosted by the NIC.
“The commission directs the CPIO, NIC to explain this matter in writing as to how the website https://aarogyasetu.gov.in/ was created with the domain name gov.in, if they don’t have any information about it,” Vanjana N Sarna, Information Commissioner, said in an order.
The CIC said that none of the chief public information officers (CPIOs) were able to explain who created the Aarogya Setu app, where the files were and called the situation “extremely preposterous”.
The three officials that have been served the notices to are S.K Tyagi, Deputy Director and CPIO, DK Sagar, deputy director, electronics and RA Dhawan, senior general manager (HR & Admn), CPIO, NeGD.
The app was launched by the government in April to track the spread of Covid-19 infection.
The entire issue surfaced when one Saurav Das complained to the CIC that the ministries have failed to provide information about the process of creation of the Aarogya Setu application and who created it.
In his complaint, Mr. Das stated that an RTI application was filed to the NIC inquiring about application and the NIC stated that it did not have any information relating to the creation of the app. He also said that even the Ministry of Electronics and the NeGD did not provide any information about the creation of the app and such other matters.
The Aarogya Setu app was downloaded by million of Indians during the lockdown period when it was made mandatory for government employees and for those travelling by flight. The app is also a must to enter restaurants, metro stations, and cinema halls as directed by the Home Ministry.
Denied any information by the authorities, petitioner Saurav Das noted:
“No one has any information on how this App was created, the files relating to its creation, who has given inputs for this App's creation, what audit measures exists to check for misuse of the personal data of millions of Indians, whether any anonymisation protocols for user data have been developed and about who this data is being shared with. This is despite the fact that any omissions and commissions by these public authorities and any failure to perform their duties as outlined and mandated under the Protocol, 2020, could essentially lead to security compromise of millions of Indians' personal and user data. This would be a grave breach of fundamental right to privacy on a massive scale and threaten people's constitutionally guaranteed right to life and liberty”.
The CIC, in response to the complaint, has served the notices to the CPIOs.