- An RTI query with the Kolkata-based Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), seeking information about the sales of pump action guns, related ammunition, and their efficacy as a riot-control weapon, has been turned down on the grounds that the information sought is “sensitive defence information” that could prejudicially affect the security interests of the nation.
- Anti-riot arms and ammunition used by paramilitary forces and state police organisations are manufactured by units under the control of the OFB. However, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the OFB turned down the RTI request under section 8 (1) (a) of the RTI Act, which exempts sensitive defence information.
- Also invoked was section 8 (1) (d) of the Act, which exempts trade secrets, intellectual property or commercial confidence that could “harm the competitive position of a third party” from disclosure.
‘In public interest’
- The RTI application also sought official records that describe the “physical characteristics and specifications of all weapons and related ammunition manufactured for the purpose of riot control” as well as their “wholesale price and maximum retail price”.
- “There is a clear public interest in knowing how much money has been spent on these weapons since they are manufactured with taxes paid by Indian citizens, for use against Indian citizens — not against external enemies.
- “Strangely enough, the OFB’s website contains detailed specifications of mortars, 155mm guns, machine guns, grenades and rocket bombs. How come there is proactive disclosure about specifications of defence equipment but not of anti-riot weapons used against citizens within the country?”