The performance appraisal reports of government staffers, officially known as the Annual Confidential Report (ACR), may not be confidential anymore, with a petition before the Delhi High Court seeking to make them available under the RTI Act in “public interest”.
The petitioner — RTI activist R.K. Jain — has raised the question whether performance appraisal reports of a government employee relating to his public duty can be termed as his “personal information” and whether their disclosure will infringe on his privacy.
According to a circular issued by the ministry of personnel and public grievances in 2007, “an ACR contains information about the character, capability and other attributes of the officials, disclosures of which to any other person would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy”.
ACRs are the basis on which the officials’ increments are based. Officials are rated as “extraordinary/very good/good/poor”. In order to be promoted, the assessee would have to earn an “extraordinary” or “very good” thrice.
Stating that under Section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, only personal information is exempted from public disclosure, the petitioner argued that ACRs do not come under this category.
A single bench judge of the Delhi High Court had in December 2011 dismissed the petition and held that ACRs are the personal information of the public servant concerned and thus cannot be made public under RTI.
The petitioner, who is also the editor of the Excise Law Times, challenged the earlier order, adding that “larger public interest warrants disclosure of all ACRs, when required under RTI Act”.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, argued: “The ACRs contain no personal information of the officer concerned, except date of birth, date of joining government, employment code, job qualifications and courses attended during the period which is merely routine data about the officer and available otherwise as well.”
The division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Rajiv Shah Endlaw will decide on the plea Feb 7, 2012.