Central Information Commission serves show cause notice to Centre.
Following a show cause notice issued over the government’s “preposterous” response to an RTI (Right to Information) query related to the Aarogya Setu application, the IT Ministry said it was taking steps to comply with the CIC’s orders, while adding that the app had been developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) in collaboration with volunteers from industry and academia.
“As per the orders of the CIC, Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs) of Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY), National E-Governance Division (NeGD) and NIC have been directed to appear on November 24, 2020. MeitY is taking necessary steps to comply with the orders of the CIC,” the IT Ministry said in a statement.
The statement comes after the Ministry and NIC were slammed by the CIC over their reply to an RTI stating that they do not have any information about the “creation” of the Aarogya Setu application promoted by the government to contain the spread of COVID-19. The CIC termed the response as “preposterous” and issued a show cause notice to the NIC to explain why a penalty under the RTI Act should not be slapped on it for “prima facie obstruction of information and providing an evasive reply”.
In the order, Information Commissioner Vanaja N. Sarna pointed out that the website of the application mentions that the content on it is “owned, updated and maintained” by MyGov and MeitY, and directed the CPIO of the Ministry to explain why they did not have the requisite information.
“With regard to the above, it is clarified that there should be no doubt with regard to the Aarogya Setu App and its role in helping contain COVID19 Pandemic in India,” MeitY said in a release, adding that, as was announced on April 2, 2020, the Aarogya Setu App had been launched by the Government of India in a public private partnership mode to bring the people of India together in its fight against COVID-19.
“The names of all those associated with the development of the App and management of the App ecosystem at various stages was shared when the code was released in Open/Public Domain and the same was shared widely in media also…On all such occasions, it has been clearly mentioned that the Aarogya Setu App has been developed by NIC in collaboration with volunteers from Industry and Academia,” it added.
The App, as per the government, has been downloaded by more than 16.23 crore users, has helped identify Bluetooth contacts of COVID-19 positive users, and in issuing alerts for helping people to stay safe. “Among those who have been advised testing, almost 25% have tested positive. This is much higher compared to the overall positivity rate of 7-8%. Thus, the efficiency of testing has gone up with Aarogya Setu. In addition, Aarogya Setu ITIHAS interface with location data has helped identify emerging hotspots where proactive steps have been taken by Health authorities and administration in order to contain the spread of the Virus,” it added.
(Inputs from PTI.)