The Madras High Court Monday ruled that the information related to the caste-wise breakup of candidates selected to government posts is not exempt from disclosure under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI).
Justice S Vaidyanathan held that the contention of the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission (TNPSC) that the information sought would amount to invasion of privacy could not be accepted especially when the selection itself is based on caste wise quota.
“The disclosure of caste wise breakup will certainly inure to the benefits of candidates to ascertain as to whether they actually fall under the reservation quota or not”, said Justice Vaidyanathan.
The Court also rejected the contention of TNPSC that the disclosure of caste-wise breakup of candidates would create communal disharmony.
“The apprehension of TNPSC, that in-depth description of castes will create communal unrest, is only an illusion and imaginary and if it is the real concern of TNPSC and the Government, they should think of abolishing the quota system as well as removal of column regarding caste particular in the school certificate itself, so that the people of Tamil Nadu could stand united under one roof irrespective of caste, creed, religion, etc., at least in the year 2050 and our State will be a model State for the whole of the country”, the Court said.
It also chastised the TNPSC for invoking section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act to deny the information.
The said Section reads as follows-
Section 8(1)- Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen-
(d)information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
The Court found the invocation of this section irrelevant to the information sought.
It went on to state: “Now-a-days, the Officials adopt a tactic to answer in a mechanical manner that the information sought for is exempted in the light of Section 8(1)(d) of the Act, without actually ascertaining as to whether the information sought falls within the ambit of the said provision”.
Such Officers, the Court said, must be taught a lesson and in the view of the Court, they are unfit to hold the post of Public Information Officer or any other post in connection with the discharge of duties under the RTI Act.
“They should be shown the doors, so that it will be a lesson for other Officers to act in accordance with the terms of the Act, failing which they may also face the similar or more consequences”, the Court said.
It, thus, directed the State Government to issue a circular to all departments, Public Sector Undertakings, Corporations, etc., so that the authorities, more particularly under RTI, will come to know of the legal consequences of non-furnishing of details, which the affected parties/general public seek for.
The Court also directed TNPSC to appraise the Court of the names and position of the officials who had rejected the RTI request and who had, thereby, “failed to discharge their official duties as adumbrated under the RTI Act, 2005.”
The Court was ruling on an appeal filed by TNPSC in 2010 challenging the decision of the Tamil Nadu Information Commission inter-alia directing the disclosure of information relating to selected candidates from the sub-castes of Muthuraja and Muthriyar, sub-castes Ambalakarar, and a list of selected candidates from Vanniya Kula Shatriar sub-castes for the years 2006, 2007 and 2008.