Who created Aarogya Setu app? As per the Aarogya Setu Website, it was developed by the National Informatics Centre and the Information Technology ministry. But, when both of them denied having any knowledge about who created the app, it irked the Central Information Commission.
CIC has issued a showcause notice to Informatics Centre (NIC), National E-Governance Division (NeGD), and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) for the “evasive answers” to an RTI application which had sought information about the one behind the creation of the app.
A Right to Information application was filed by Activist Saurav Das. In the application, he had sought details about proposal for the app, details of approval, companies involved, individuals and government departments involved, and copies of communications in developing the app. Das had raised questions about why there is so less information available on the app about who created the app.
The government bodies declined to comment on the questions raised by Das and asked him to approach Central Information Commission. The app had already been under questions of collecting and storing the information.
CIC in its October 26 order stated, “The CPIO (central public information officer), NIC’s submissions that the entire file related to creation of the App is not with NIC is understandable, but the same submissions if accepted from MeITY, NeGD and NIC in toto, then it becomes more relevant to now find out how an App was created and there is no information with any of the relevant public authorities.”
The CIC has also questioned NIC, which manages the creation and maintenance of government websites, to explain how the Aarogya Setu app was created with a gov.in extension when the government has no information regarding it.
“The Commission observed that none of the CPIOs provided any information. Therefore, 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 do not have any information about it,” stated CIC.
CIC further added, “None of the CPIOs were able to explain anything regarding who created the App, where are the files, and the same is extremely preposterous.”
MeitY officials have issued a statement saying, “As per the orders of the CIC, CPIOs of MeitY, NeGD and NIC have been directed to appear on 24th November 2020. MeitY is taking necessary steps to comply with the orders of the CIC.”
The officials have also stated that the Aarogya Setu app was created in record time to combat the pandemic. The statement also claimed that the source code and the information related to the people associated with the app is available in an open domain.
The ministry also said, “Since 2nd April 2020, regular press releases and updates have been issued on Aarogya Setu App including making the source code available in Open domain on 26th May 2020. 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.”
CIC, on October 26 stated, “Furthermore, as per the website, it is mentioned that the content is owned, updated and maintained by the MyGov, MeitY. Therefore, directed to explain in writing who is the concerned CPIO to explain regarding MyGov, MeiTY maintaining the app. The platform is designed, developed and hosted by the National Informatics Centre, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, Government of India, then how is it that they do not have any information about creation of the App.”
Central Information Commission has asked the CPIOs to appear on November 24. “The Commission is constrained to issue a show cause notice to the concerned CPIOs,” said CIC. The Commission has asked the three CPIOs to make written submissions with the details about their role in the creation of the website https://aarogyasetu.gov.in/ with the domain name gov.in.
“The CPIO, NeGD shall also explain the delay of about two months in replying to the RTI application. The Commission directs the above-mentioned CPIOs to appear before the bench on 24.11.2020 at 01.15 pm to show cause as to why action should not be initiated against them under Section 20 of the RTI Act. The CPIOs are also directed to send a copy of all supporting documents upon which they choose to rely upon during the hearing,” said the CIC order.
The CIC has also raised the question to explain why penalty under the Right to Information should not be imposed on them ‘for prima facie obstruction of information and providing an evasive reply’.