In response to an RTI application by MediaNama, the Prime Minister’s Office said it had no information on whether it asked Paytm for any user data. The PMO also said, in its one-liner response, that it had no record of whether its officials met with Paytm employees.
In May, a top Paytm executive, Ajay Shekhar Sharma, was caught in a sting operation where he said that he got calls directly from the PMO asking him for user data.
“When there was a curfew in Jammu & Kashmir due to stone pelting,” Sharma had said in that video recording, “then the Prime Minister’s Office personally called asking for data, because it’s possible that some people might have been Paytm users.”
Paytm then denied that it shared any data improperly. In a strongly worded statement, it implied that Sharma, who is founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s brother, was “not aware of [Paytm’s data sharing] policy and is not authorised to speak on behalf of the company”.
MediaNama’s RTI and response
In its RTI application, MediaNama had asked:
- Whether the PMO has ever met with Paytm officials
- Whether the PMO has ever met with Paytm on behalf of law enforcement agencies
- Whether PMO officials have ever sent user data requests to Paytm
- List of instances where the above have happened
The Prime Minister’s Office responded to MediaNama’s queries with a simple one-liner: “It [all the four questions] is not part of records held by this office.”
Corrigendum: An earlier version of this story reported that the PMO declined to disclose details of meetings with Paytm officials and user data requests sent to Paytm. The PMO’s response actually stated that records of these requests and meetings were not held by them. MediaNama regrets the error.