The Delhi High Court Friday issued a modified order to its “controversial” ruling that whenever information is sought under the Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005, disclosure of an interest in the information sought would be necessary to establish the bonafides of the RTI applicant.
In her clarification, Justice Pratibha M Singh has now added the word “personal” before the information sought, and thus substituted the earlier text as follows-
“12. This Court is of the opinion that whenever personal information is sought under the RTI Act, disclosure of an interest in the said information sought would be necessary to establish the bonafides of the applicant. Non- disclosure of the same could result in injustice to several other affected persons, whose personal information is sought….”.
The original para read as follows- “This Court is of the opinion that whenever information is sought under the RTI Act, disclosure of an interest in the information sought would be necessary to establish the bonafides of the applicant. Non-disclosure of the same could result in injustice to several other affected persons, whose information is sought….”.
The Leaflet spoke to former Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi on the modified order. He said the Delhi High Court’s order is still per incuriam (lack of due regard to the law) since there is no legal basis to establish bonafides even for personal information.
“The RTI Act does not exempt all personal information and the order is contrary to the Supreme Court judgment in Common Cause v. the Allahabad High Court wherein the Supreme Court had said no motive needs to be disclosed in view of the scheme of the Act”, Gandhi added.
In the Common Cause case, the issue before the Supreme Court was the challenge to the Allahabad High Court’s RTI rules which required an exorbitant fee for invoking RTI, instead of Rs.10. The Rules also required the disclosure of a reason for the information.
Section 6(2) of the RTI Act provides that an applicant making a request for information is not required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.
Justice Pratibha M Singh on January 12 ruled on a petition challenging the decision of the Central Information Commission (CIC) refusing to order the disclosure of the names and residential addresses of the fathers of those candidates who were appointed as part of the Multi-Tasking Staff in the President’s Secretariat.
RTI applicant Har Kishan had sought information in respect of certain appointments made for the MultiTasking Staff at the Presidential Estate, Rashtrapati Bhawan.
During the proceedings, the Court found that the Petitioner’s daughter had also applied for an appointment as a member of the Multi-Tasking Staff. However, this fact did not find any mention in the writ petition.
It also noted that the petition showed that he himself was earlier working in the Presidential Estate on an ad-hoc basis, from 2012-2017.
Justice Singh, thus, observed that the petition before the Court was “cleverly quiet” about the fact that the Petitioner’s daughter had applied for being considered for appointment as a member of the Multi-Tasking Staff at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
“The seeking of the above information, especially after the Petitioner’s daughter did not obtain employment, clearly points to some ulterior motives”, Justice Singh said.
On merits of the case, the Court held that the information sought in respect of the names of the candidates’ fathers and their residential addresses was “completely invasive”, and would be a “roving and fishing” enquiry.
“The said information which is sought is clearly protected under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act which provides that any such information shall not be provided which constitutes personal information and is invasive of the privacy of individuals”, the Court held.
The Court also imposed costs of Rs. 25,000/- on the petitioner for having concealed the material facts including that his daughter had applied for an appointment as a member of the MultiTasking Staff.
Several RTI activists had criticized the Court’s original ruling as having breached the RTI Act, which does not require any reasons for seeking information.