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CIC Defines Privacy u/s 8(j)

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CIC Defines Privacy u/s 8(j)


In the absenc of a of clear definition of what is meant by “invasion of privacy” in any India Acts & specifically RTI Act,05 the Chief Information Commission Shri Wajahat Habibullah in a recent decision gave new interpretatios to often misused section 8(j).


He has quoted extensively from the UK's Data Protection Act, 1998 and USA's Law of Torts.


Allowing the appeal by Sri Shailendra Verma, whose RTI application was rejected by the CPIO of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NCPI) Mumbai the CIC has ordered the CPIO to supply point wise information to each question sought by appellant.


Here's some extract from CIC's decision.


Decision Notice


Having heard the arguments and examined the records, we find that the

information provided remains incomplete. Although the list of select candidates and the marks of interview which would form the basis for their selection have been provided, their educational & technical qualifications & experience certificate has not. There is also no copy of any file noting. CPIO Shri Kakde has indeed in his letter of 11.10.06 offered inspection of records in any “particular case”, giving no reasons why file noting on the selection cannot be shown u/s 8(1)(j). We have no clear definition of what is meant by “invasion of privacy” within the RTI Act.


We have, therefore in a number of decisions been guided in application of sec. 8(1)(j) by the U.K. Data Protection Act, 1998 and the U.S. Law

of Torts.


We have no equivalent of UK’s Data Protection Act, 1998, Sec 2 of

which, titled Sensitive Personal Data, reads as follows:

In this Act “sensitive personal data” means personal data consisting

of information as to:

a) The racial or ethnic origin of the data subject

b) His political opinions

c) His religious beliefs or other beliefs of a similar nature

d) Whether he is a member of a Trade Union

e) His physical or mental health or condition

f) His sexual life

g) The commission or alleged commission by him of any offence

h) Any proceedings for any offence committed or alleged to have

been committed by him, the disposal of such proceedings or the

sentence of any court in such proceedings.


If we were to construe privacy to mean protection of personal data, this would be a suitable reference point to help define the concept. In this context, as may be seen the questions sought by appellant at are not of private information.


The US Restatement of the Law, Second, Torts, § 652 defines the

Intrusion to Privacy in the following manner:


“One, who intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the

solitude or seclusion of another or his private affairs or concerns, is

subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if the

intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.”

In the present case information sought is clearly information on a public activity which is selection for the post of HRM on 13th & 14th Sept., 2006.


Recourse, therefore, cannot be taken to sec. 8(1) (j) in providing information. Shri R. R. Kakde, CPIO is, therefore, directed to supply point wise information to each question sought by appellant Shri Shailendra Verma in his application of 18.9.06, conceding that questions 1 & 4 stand answered. If the CPIO is of the view that providing this information would be detrimental to the safety of the preservation of the record in question, he will arrange inspection by appellant Shri Shailendra Verma on a mutually convenient date and time but arrange it by or before 28.2.2008.


The appeal is thus allowed.

Reserved in the hearing the decision is

announced after receipt of supporting documents from CPIO on 30.1.08.


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



(Wajahat Habibullah)

Chief Information Commissioner



Full Decision is available here.

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I dont think that 'invasion of privacy' can be defined exhaustively. Such a definition should evolve over a period of time. Enumerating the kinds of info that may lead to invasion of privacy may also prove to be fallacious since very often it may depend on the context in which the said info is used or called for. Interpolating UK's definition of 'sensitive personal data' to define the concept of 'invasion of privacy' under our RTI may be undesirable.

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In my opinion , instead of trying to have an exhaustive list of what constitues to and what does not constitutes invasuon of privacy, it would be better to have an analytical approach as to whether public interst involved in the disclosure outweighs the privacy being intruded. why should any of my or your data be open to public if it does not serve any public interst. if the applicant is serious in his application, he can always take some pain to highlight the public interst involved in his query.

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