Mohammad Azam, Chief Information Commissioner held that the information requested by the appellant, in the form of shapefile, may, prima facie, facilitate the commercial interests of the appellant at the cost of national security. Furthermore, using PIC platform for obtaining information which is already available in other formats and at a published government rate is not allowed.
Fawad Malik, Information Commissioner held that the requested shapefile contains in-depth information which can be helpful for getting sensitive insights regarding places that may compromise security of government departments, military installations and facilities relating to national security of the country. Moreover, block file owner may use maps to their advantage in carrying out commercial activities such as building various computer/mobile applications, geo tracking based ad-campaigns, Vehicle tracking and monitoring apps, taxi apps, Individual tracking systems and GIS solutions etc.
In his dissenting note, Zahid Abdullah, Information Commissioner held that there cannot be any two opinions that data/information that may cause threat to national security should not be made public. Similarly, it is disservice to the cause of national security to withhold information having no nexus with national security by raising specter of national security.
There is no nexus between the disclosure of the census block data in Shape file and threat to national security because of the following:
(a) the Appellant has withdrawn request pertaining to Points of Interest, though even the disclosure of Points of Interest is not likely to cause threat to national security given the fact that such information is already in public domain.
(b) Countries like Canada, UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Switzerland not only make their census block data digitally accessible and downable for their citizens but some countries make it downable for everyone in the world.
With layers of Points of interests removed from census block data available with the Respondent, maps would only contain information pertaining to census blocks boundaries and this information is not hit by any of the exemption clauses of the Act, 2017.
The value of the data/information for public good after its disclosure cannot be sacrificed on the altar of possibility that the commercial entities can use the data/information for commercial purposes on the following grounds:
(a) commercial entities can only build their products, introduce innovations after value addition on the data-sets held by governments.
(b) had it not been data/information collected by the governments through public funds, the private sector would not have been able to introduce innovative technology and scientific developments.