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Mr.Akshay Pant vs Ut Of Andaman And Nicobar on 23 November, 2011

Central Information Commission
Mr.Akshay Pant vs Ut Of Andaman And Nicobar on 23 November, 2011
                        CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
                            Club Building (Near Post Office)
                          Old JNU Campus, New Delhi - 110067
                                 Tel: +91-11-26161796
                                                           Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2011/002237/15855
                                                                   Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2011/002237
Relevant facts emerging from the Appeal:

Appellant                            :      Mr. Akshay Pant,
                                            South Point,
                                            Shadipur Post Office,
                                            Port Blair-744106.

Respondent                           :      PIO,
                                            Social Welfare,
                                            Andaman & Nicobar Administration,
                                            Andaman & Nicobar Island
                                            O/o The Director,
                                            Goal Ghar, Port Blair.

RTI application filed on             :      21/02/2011
PIO replied on                       :      21/03/2011
First Appeal filed on                :      24/04/2011
First Appellate Authority order of   :      30/05/2011
Second Appeal received on            :      10/08/2011

Information Sought:
   1. Provide a copy of list of all the officers in whose case permission for prosecution has been sought
      from the Lt. Governor for the period 01/01/2010 to 01/01/2009. The list should include the
      following:
   a. Name of the officer.
   b. Date of seeking permission.
   c. Date on which permission was granted.

   2. Provide a copy of list of all the officers against whom vigilance enquiry is pending/completed. The
      list should include the following:
   a. Name of the officer.
   b. Date of starting enquiry.
   c. Date of completion enquiry.

   3. Please provide a copy of year wise assets and property return and liabilities statements submitted
      to the department from the date of joining department by the following officers:
   a. Shri. R.K. Majhi.
   b. Shri. P.C. James.
   c. Smt. Zarina Bibi.
   d. Miss Rita Devi.

   4. Please provide a copy of service book page in which details of family members is mentioned.

The PIO reply:


                                                                                             Page 1 of 3
 With reference to your RTI Application dated 21/02/2011 the information sought by you costs Rs. 80/-.
Hence it is requested to kindly deposit an amount of Rs. 80/- (Rupees Eighty only) to the Cashier,
Directorate. Of Social Welfare, so as to furnish the document as desired by you.

The PIO has denied the information on queries 3 & 4 under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act.

Grounds for the First Appeal:
Unsatisfactory reply was given to the appellant by the PIO.

Order of the First Appellate Authority (FAA):
"With reference to appeal under RTI Act referred above, Shri Akshay Pant, Appellant is present
APIO/Superintendent (JH) Shri Majhi is also present on 30/05/2011.
   The appellant stated that information sought vide his application dated 21/02/2011 in respect of SI. No.
2 & 3 has not been furnished by PIO.
    Regarding point No. 2, the Appellant stated that information has been withheld by PIO in respect of
Shri A.K. Biswas, Probation Officer (JH). The APIO would provide the information to the Appellant
immediately.
   Regarding point No.3, the APIO stated that he has sought clarification from Assistant Secretary (AR),
A & N Administration and after receipt of the reply from Administrative Reform section, the information
would be provided accordingly."

Ground of the Second Appeal:
Unsatisfactory information had been provided by the PIO.

Relevant Facts

emerging during Hearing:

The following were present
Appellant : Mr. Akshay Pant on video conference from NIC-Port Blair Studio;
Respondent : Absent;

The PIO had initially not claimed any exemption for giving any of the information and had asked
the Appellant to deposit Rs.80/- as additional fee to provide the information. Subsequently when
providing the information he has refused to give the information on query 3 & 4. This is a bad practice. If
a PIO intends to deny any information based on the exemptions under Section 8(1) this should be done in
the initial reply itself.

As regards query-3 the Commission has held in numerous decisions that the details of assets and assets of
public servants cannot be considered to be exempt as decided in no. CIC/AT/A/2008/01262/SG/2109
dated 27/02/2009 that the assets of public servants would have to be disclosed when a citizen uses the
Right to Information.

The Commission can allow denial of information only based on the exemptions listed under
Section 8 (1) of the act. The PIO has claimed that the information should not be disclosed since it is
exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (j).

Under Section 8 (1) (j) information which has been exempted is defined as:
“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:”

To qualify for this exemption the information must satisfy the following criteria:

1. It must be personal information.

Page 2 of 3

Words in a law should normally be given the meanings given in common language. In common
language we would ascribe the adjective ‘personal’ to an attribute which applies to an individual and not to
an Institution or a Corporate. From this it flows that ‘personal’ cannot be related to Institutions,
organisations or corporates. ( Hence we could state that Section 8 (1) (j) cannot be applied when the
information concerns institutions, organisations or corporates.).
The phrase ‘disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest’ means that the
information must have some relationship to a Public activity.
Various Public authorities in performing their functions routinely ask for ‘personal’ information from
Citizens, and this is clearly a public activity. When a person applies for a job, or gives information about
himself to a Public authority as an employee, or asks for a permission, licence or authorisation, all these
are public activities. The information sought in this case by the appellant has certainly been obtained in
the pursuit of a public activity.

We can also look at this from another aspect. The State has no right to invade the privacy of an
individual. There are some extraordinary situations where the State may be allowed to invade on the
privacy of a Citizen. In those circumstances special provisos of the law apply, always with certain
safeguards. Therefore it can be argued that where the State routinely obtains information from Citizens,
this information is in relationship to a public activity and will not be an intrusion on privacy.

Therefore we can state that disclosure of information such as assets of a Public servant, -which is
routinely collected by the Public authority and routinely provided by the Public servants,- cannot
be construed as an invasion on the privacy of an individual. There will only be a few exceptions to
this rule which might relate to information which is obtained by a Public authority while using
extraordinary powers such as in the case of a raid or phone-tapping. Any other exceptions would
have to be specifically justified. Besides the Supreme Court has clearly ruled that even people who aspire
to be public servants by getting elected have to declare their property details. If people who aspire to be
public servants must declare their property details it is only logical that the details of assets of those who
are public servants must be considered to be disclosable. Hence the exemption under Section 8(1) (j)
cannot be applied in the instant case.

In view of this the Commission does not uphold the exemption claimed by the PIO with respect to query-

3. However, the appellant has also agreed not to pursue query-4.

Decision:

The Appeal is allowed.

The PIO is directed to provide the information as sought in query-3 by the Appellant
before 15 December 2011.

This decision is announced in open chamber.

Notice of this decision be given free of cost to the parties.

Any information in compliance with this Order will be provided free of cost as per Section 7(6) of RTI Act.

Shailesh Gandhi
Information Commissioner
23 November 2011
(In any correspondence on this decision, mention the complete decision number.) (ved)

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