No need for appellant to show any public interest In RTI Application / Appeal

No need for appellant to show any public interest
RTI Judgement Series: No need for appellant to show any public interest…

MONEYLIFE DIGITAL TEAM | 01/08/2014 02:44 PM | Follow @mldigital

The Appellant does not have to show any public interest in disclosure of the information unless an exemption under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act applies to the information, the CIC ruled. This is the 205th in a series of important RTI judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi

The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed the Public Information Officer (PIO) of Allahabad Bank to provide the information, which the PIO has declined under Section 8(b) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

While giving the judgement on 18 June 2012, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner, said, “The Lawmakers have specifically exempted information, which has been expressly forbidden by any court of law of tribunal but not exempted matters merely because they are sub-judice. In the instant case the PIO has not established any claim for exemption as per Section 8(1) of the RTI Act and hence there is no need for the appellant to show any public interest in this disclosure.”

Satna, Madhya Pradesh resident, Bihari Singh, on 29 December 2011, sought from the PIO information regarding a letter, an affidavit and agenda of the Bank’s board meeting on 26 December 2011. Here is the information the appellant had sought and the reply provided by the PIO…

Provide certified copy of the letter no. SSB/HO/VIG/01771 Satna dated 06/06/94.

PIO’s reply- It is under consideration of the Arbitration Appellate Authority, whose hearing has been scheduled. As per Section 8(b) of the RTI Act, information regarding any proceedings in the Court of Law or Tribunal is exempt from disclosure.

Provide certified copy of the agenda that was send to the Board of directors regarding the board meeting on 26/12/2011.

PIO’s reply- The information sought is not in public interest. Thus, the information cannot be made public and thus cannot be provided.

Provide certified copies of the affidavits by the bank on episode no. PMA/MCJ/12/2002 in Arbitration, New Delhi.

PIO’s reply- This information can be provided as the proceeding is pending on the Arbitration Tribunal. As per Section 8(b) of the RTI Act, information regarding any proceedings in the Court of Law or Tribunal is exempt from disclosure.

Provide certified copies of the suspension order no. —-193-94/8849 dated 03/02/94.

PIO’s reply- Copy of the suspension order has been enclosed.

Bihari Singh, the appellant, citing incomplete and unsatisfactory information provided by the PIO, then filed his first appeal. The First Appellate Authority (FAA), while disposing the appeal, upheld the PIO’s decision/reply.

Bihari Singh, then approached the CIC with his second appeal.

During the hearing, Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, noted that both the parties were given an opportunity for hearing, but neither party appeared. “From a perusal of the papers it appears that the PIO has denied information on query 01 & 03 under Section 8(1)(b) of the RTI Act,” he said.

Section 8(1)(b) of the RTI Act exempts, “information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court;”.

Mr Gandhi said, “The PIO has incorrectly applied this exemption and denied the information on the ground that any proceedings in a court of law or tribunal are exempt. The Lawmakers have specifically exempted information which has been expressly forbidden by any court of law of tribunal but not exempted matters merely because they are subjudice. No evidence has been shown that the information on query 1 & 3 has been prohibited from disclosure by any Court of Law or Tribunal. In view of this, the Bench does not accept the claim of exemption by the PIO with regards to query 1 & 3 of the RTI Application.”

The PIO had also refused to disclose the information on query 2 on the ground that there is no public interest in disclosure of this information. “The Appellant does not have to show any public interest in disclosure of the information unless an exemption under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act applies to the information. Only if an exemption under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act is applicable, the PIO may still disclose the information as per the provisions of Section 8(2) of the RTI Act. In such an event a larger public interest in disclosure has to be shown. In the instant case, the PIO has not established any claim for exemption as per Section 8(1) of the RTI Act and hence there is no need for the appellant to show any public interest in this disclosure.”

While allowing the appeal of Bihari Singh, the Bench of Mr Gandhi directed the PIO to provide information on query 1, 2 & 3 before 5 July 2012.

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION Decision dated 18 June 2012 No. CIC/SG/A/2012/001239/19290 in Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/ 2012/ 001239