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whether the Central Information Commissioner (for short ‘the CIC’) acting under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (for short ‘the RTI Act’) was right in denying information regarding the third respondent’s personal matters pertaining to his service career and also denying the details of his assets and liabilities, movable and immovable properties on the ground that the information sought for was qualified to be personal information as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act.-The details disclosed by a person in his income tax returns are “personal information” which stand exempted from disclosure under clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act, unless involves a larger public interest and the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.

REPORTABLE

English: The supreme court of india. Taken abo...

English: The supreme court of india. Taken about 170 m from the main building outside the perimeter wall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

 

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

 

Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 27734          of 2012

(@ CC 14781/2012)

 

 

 

Girish Ramchandra Deshpande                  .. Petitioner

Versus

Cen. Information Commr. & Ors.                     .. Respondents

 

 

 

O R D E R

 

1.    Delay condoned.

 

2.    We are, in this case, concerned with the question whether the  Central

Information Commissioner (for short ‘the CIC’) acting  under  the  Right  to

Information Act, 2005 (for  short  ‘the  RTI  Act’)  was  right  in  denying

information regarding the third respondent’s personal matters pertaining  to

his  service  career  and  also  denying  the  details  of  his  assets  and

liabilities, movable  and  immovable  properties  on  the  ground  that  the

information sought for was qualified to be personal information  as  defined

in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act.

 

 

3.    The petitioner  herein  had  submitted  an  application  on  27.8.2008

before  the  Regional  Provident  Fund  Commissioner  (Ministry  of  Labour,

Government  of  India)  calling  for  various  details  relating  to   third

respondent, who was employed  as  an  Enforcement  Officer  in  Sub-Regional

Office, Akola, now working in the State of Madhya Pradesh.  As  many  as  15

queries were made to which the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner,  Nagpur

gave the following reply on 15.9.2008:

 

”As to Point No.1:     Copy of appointment order of Shri A.B. Lute, is

in 3 pages.  You have  sought  the  details  of

salary in respect  of  Shri  A.B.  Lute,  which

relates to personal information the disclosures

of which has  no  relationship  to  any  public

activity   or   interest,   it   would    cause

unwarranted  invasion   of   the   privacy   of

individual  hence  denied  as   per   the   RTI

provision under Section 8(1)(j) of the Act.

 

 

As to Point No.2:      Copy of order of granting  Enforcement  Officer

Promotion to Shri A.B. Lute, is  in  3  Number.

Details  of  salary  to  the  post  along  with

statutory and other deductions of Mr.  Lute  is

denied to provide as per RTI  provisions  under

Section  8(1)(j)  for  the  reasons   mentioned

above.

 

 

As to Point NO.3:      All the transfer orders of Shri A.B. Lute,  are

in 13 Numbers.  Salary details is  rejected  as

per the provision under Section 8(1)(j) for the

reason mentioned above.

 

 

As to Point No.4:      The copies of memo, show cause notice,  censure

issued to Mr. Lute, are not being  provided  on

the ground  that  it  would  cause  unwarranted

invasion of the privacy of the  individual  and

has no relationship to any public  activity  or

interest.   Please  see  RTI  provision   under

Section 8(1)(j).

 

 

As to Point No.5:      Copy of EPF (Staff & Conditions) Rules 1962  is

in 60 pages.

 

 

As to Point No.6:      Copy of return of  assets  and  liabilities  in

respect of Mr. Lute cannot be provided  as  per

the provision of RTI Act under Section  8(1)(j)

as per the  reason  explained  above  at  point

No.1.

 

 

As to Point No.7:      Details of investment and other related details

are rejected as per the provision  of  RTI  Act

under  Section  8(1)(j)  as  per   the   reason

explained above at point No.1.

 

 

As to Point No.8:      Copy of report of  item  wise  and  value  wise

details of  gifts  accepted  by  Mr.  Lute,  is

rejected as per the provisions of RTI Act under

Section 8(1)(j) as  per  the  reason  explained

above at point No.1.

 

 

As  to  Point  No.9:       Copy  of  details  of  movable,   immovable

properties of Mr. Lute, the request to  provide

the same is rejected as per the RTI  Provisions

under Section 8(1)(j).

 

 

As to Point  No.10:      Mr.  Lute  is  not  claiming  for  TA/DA  for

attending the criminal case  pending  at  JMFC,

Akola.

 

 

As to Point No.11:     Copy of Notification is in 2 numbers.

 

 

As to Point No.12:     Copy of certified true  copy  of  charge  sheet

issued to Mr. Lute – The matter  pertains  with

head Office, Mumbai.  Your application is being

forwarded to Head Office, Mumbai as per Section

6(3) of the RTI Act, 2005.

 

 

As to  Point  No.13:      Certified  True  copy  of  complete  enquiry

proceedings initiated against  Mr.  Lute  –  It

would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy  of

individuals and  has  no  relationship  to  any

public activity or interest.   Please  see  RTI

provisions under Section 8(1)(j).

 

 

As to Point No.14:     It would cause unwarranted invasion of  privacy

of individuals and has no relationship  to  any

public activity or interest,  hence  denied  to

provide.

 

 

As to Point No.15:     Certified true copy of second show cause notice

–  It  would  cause  unwarranted  invasion   of

privacy of individuals and has no  relationship

to  any  public  activity  or  interest,  hence

denied to provide.”

 

 

 

 

4.    Aggrieved by the said order, the petitioner approached the  CIC.   The

CIC passed the order on 18.6.2009, the operative portion of the order  reads

as under:

 

“The question for consideration is whether the  aforesaid  information

sought by the Appellant can be treated as  ‘personal  information’  as

defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of  the  RTI  Act.   It  may  be

pertinent to mention that this issue came up before the Full Bench  of

the Commission in Appeal No.CIC/AT/A/2008/000628  (Milap  Choraria  v.

Central Board of Direct Taxes) and the Commission  vide  its  decision

dated 15.6.2009 held that “the Income Tax  return  have  been  rightly

held to be personal information exempted from disclosure under  clause

(j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act  by  the  CPIO  and  the  Appellate

Authority, and the appellant herein has not  been  able  to  establish

that a larger public interest would be served by  disclosure  of  this

information.  This logic would hold good as far as the  ITRs  of  Shri

Lute are  concerned.   I  would  like  to  further  observe  that  the

information which has been denied to the appellant  essentially  falls

in two parts – (i) relating to the personal matters pertaining to  his

services career; and (ii) Shri Lute’s assets  &  liabilities,  movable

and immovable properties and  other  financial  aspects.   I  have  no

hesitation in holding that this information also qualifies to  be  the

‘personal information’ as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the

RTI Act and the appellant has not been able to convince the Commission

that disclosure thereof is in larger public interest.”

 

 

 

 

5.    The CIC, after holding so directed the second respondent  to  disclose

the information at paragraphs 1, 2, 3 (only posting  details),  5,  10,  11,

12,13 (only copies of the posting orders) to the appellant within  a  period

of four weeks from the date of the order.  Further, it  was  held  that  the

information sought for with regard to the other queries did not qualify  for

disclosure.

 

6.    Aggrieved by the said order, the  petitioner  filed  a  writ  petition

No.4221 of 2009 which came up for hearing before a learned Single Judge  and

the court dismissed the same vide order dated  16.2.2010.   The  matter  was

taken up by way of Letters Patent Appeal No.358 of 2011 before the  Division

Bench and the same was dismissed vide order dated 21.12.2011.   Against  the

said order this special leave petition has been filed.

 

7.    Shri A.P. Wachasunder, learned counsel appearing  for  the  petitioner

submitted that the documents sought  for  vide  Sl.  Nos.1,  2  and  3  were

pertaining to appointment and promotion and Sl.  No.4  and  12  to  15  were

related to disciplinary action and documents at Sl. Nos.6 to 9 pertained  to

assets and liabilities and gifts received by the third  respondent  and  the

disclosure of those details, according to the  learned  counsel,  would  not

cause unwarranted invasion of privacy.

 

8.    Learned counsel also submitted that the privacy  appended  to  Section

8(1)(j) of the RTI Act widens the scope of documents  warranting  disclosure

and if those provisions are properly interpreted, it could not be said  that

documents  pertaining  to  employment  of  a  person  holding  the  post  of

enforcement officer could be treated as documents having no relationship  to

any public activity or interest.

 

9.    Learned counsel also pointed out that in view of Section 6(2)  of  the

RTI Act, the applicant making request for  information  is  not  obliged  to

give any reason for the  requisition  and  the  CIC  was  not  justified  in

dismissing his appeal.

 

10.   This Court in Central Board of  Secondary  Education  and  another  v.

Aditya Bandopadhyay and others (2011) 8  SCC  497  while  dealing  with  the

right of examinees to inspect evaluated answer books in connection with  the

examination conducted by the CBSE Board  had  an  occasion  to  consider  in

detail the aims and object of the RTI Act as well as  the  reasons  for  the

introduction  of  the  exemption  clause  in  the  RTI  Act,  hence,  it  is

unnecessary, for the purpose of this case to  further  examine  the  meaning

and contents of Section 8 as a whole.

 

11.   We are, however, in this case primarily concerned with the  scope  and

interpretation to clauses (e), (g) and (j) of Section 8(1) of  the  RTI  Act

which are extracted herein below:

“8. Exemption from disclosure  of  information.-  (1)  Notwithstanding

anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation  to  give

any citizen,-

 

 

(e) information available to a person in his  fiduciary  relationship,

unless the competent authority is satisfied  that  the  larger  public

interest warrants the disclosure  of such information;

 

 

(g) information, the disclosure of which would endanger  the  life  or

physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or

assistance  given  in  confidence  for  law  enforcement  or  security

purposes;

 

 

(j) 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.”

 

 

 

 

12.   The petitioner herein sought for  copies  of  all  memos,  show  cause

notices and censure/punishment awarded to  the  third  respondent  from  his

employer and also details viz. movable and  immovable  properties  and  also

the details of his investments, lending and borrowing from Banks  and  other

financial institutions.    Further, he has also sought for  the  details  of

gifts stated to have accepted by the third respondent,  his  family  members

and friends and relatives at the  marriage  of  his  son.   The  information

mostly sought for finds a place in the  income  tax  returns  of  the  third

respondent.  The question that has come up for consideration is whether  the

above-mentioned  information  sought   for   qualifies   to   be   “personal

information” as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act.

 

13.   We are in agreement with  the  CIC  and  the  courts  below  that  the

details called for by the petitioner i.e. copies of all memos issued to  the

third respondent, show cause notices and orders of  censure/punishment  etc.

are qualified to be  personal  information  as  defined  in  clause  (j)  of

Section 8(1) of the RTI Act.  The performance of an employee/officer  in  an

organization is primarily a matter between the  employee  and  the  employer

and normally those aspects are governed by  the  service  rules  which  fall

under the expression “personal information”, the disclosure of which has  no

relationship to any public activity or public interest.  On the other  hand,

the disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of  that

individual.  Of course, in a given case, if the Central  Public  Information

Officer or the State Public Information Officer of the  Appellate  Authority

is satisfied that the larger public interest  justifies  the  disclosure  of

such information, appropriate orders could  be  passed  but  the  petitioner

cannot claim those details as a matter of right.

 

14.   The details disclosed by a  person  in  his  income  tax  returns  are

“personal information” which stand exempted  from  disclosure  under  clause

(j) of Section 8(1)  of  the  RTI  Act,  unless  involves  a  larger  public

interest and the Central Public Information  Officer  or  the  State  Public

Information Officer or the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the  larger

public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.

 

15.   The petitioner in the instant case has not made  a  bona  fide  public

interest in seeking information, the disclosure of  such  information  would

cause unwarranted invasion  of  privacy  of  the  individual  under  Section

8(1)(j) of the RTI Act.

 

16.   We are, therefore, of the view that the petitioner has  not  succeeded

in establishing that the information sought for is  for  the  larger  public

interest.  That being the fact,  we  are  not  inclined  to  entertain  this

special leave petition.  Hence, the same is dismissed.

 

 

……………….……………………..J.

(K. S. RADHAKRISHNAN)

 

 

 

 

 

 

………………………………….…..J.

(DIPAK MISRA)

New Delhi

October 3, 2012

 

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