On November 15, 2017, economist Reetika Khera filed an RTI application seeking the list of enrolment agencies employed by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) since its inception eight years ago and the amount spent each year for advertising and publicising Aadhaar.
The UIDAI responded on January 3, 2018, but refused to disclose details about the expenses incurred on promoting Aadhaar.
According to Hindustan Times, the UIDAI cited Section 8(1)’s clauses D and J of the RTI Act as reasons for not giving the information.
Section 8 of the RTI Act deals with “Exemption from disclosure of information”.
Clause D of Section 8(1) states that there shall be no obligation to give citizens “information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information”.
Clause J of Section 8(1) states that there shall be no obligation to give citizens “information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information…”
Khera was disappointed by the UIDAI’s response, finding the secrecy worrying. “As per the RTI Act, the UIDAI should be disclosing this (information) proactively on its website. The disclosure is in public interest and the nature of the information is such that it cannot be denied to Parliament.”
Himanshu, associate professor in Economics at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU, told Hindustan Times: “There is no reason why the government should be guarded about sharing this basic information. It is not a state secret that may have any harmful ramifications. After all, public money is being used for this makeover and branding.”