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    The Risk of RTI


    If RTI is a common man tool, there are always Risk of RTI too. Information which was clearly in the nature of personal information relating to the Passport of a lady got disclosed to a third party.  The lady rightly got aggrieved because of this decision of the CPIO which resulted in Loss of Privacy due to RTI. Her husband was living in Canada since 7 September 2011 while his brother lived here in India. She alleged that the brother living in India had applied for information by faking the signature of her husband and the passport office had issued a notice to her under section 11 of the RTI Act before disclosing the information. She had objected to the disclosure but, in spite of that, the CPIO went ahead and disclosed not only the fact that her passport had been impounded but also some other personal details, like the copy of her schools certificate.

    The CIC also got concerned with this Risk of RTI. After hearing CIC recorded that "we find the decision of the CPIO highly problematic. Very rightly, he had issued a notice under section 11 when he received the application seeking details about the Appellant's passport. After he received the objection from the Appellant, he did not take it into account before finally deciding to disclose the information. As a result, some information which is clearly in the nature of personal information relating to the Appellant got disclosed to a third party. The Appellant is rightly aggrieved because of this decision of the CPIO."

    Risk of RTI

    "We think that the CPIO must show cause why we should not impose penalty on him for this indiscreet act in terms of the provisions of subsection 1 of section 20 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Therefore, we direct the CPIO concerned to appear before us in the next date of hearing on 26 August 2013 at 11.30 a.m. and show cause for his decision resulting in the disclosure of third party information. We will decide on the penalty only after hearing his explanation."

    In our earlier article: RTI and Privacy- Are they two sides of the same coin?

    CPIO’s must deal with numerous issues: Should officers names and other details be considered private? Is information in public registers and muster rolls available for any use? Are court and criminal records public? Personal life—Information relating solely to a public employee’s personal life rather than to his or her public actions is one such place of RTI and Privacy come in conflict. There is also significant agreement that information about elected or high-rank public officials is less restricted, even when it relates to their personal lives.

    Governments and private organizations that collect information related to government services and obligations (including Income tax,medical details, criminal records (NCRB), and citizenship records (UIDIA, National Population Register) and identification technologies (including identity card systems,fingerprints, IRIS Scan, Video survullence) have quickly evolved and expanded. New communications technologies create and collect substantial records about individuals in the process of providing communications. Services run by governments and private operators collect information about individuals, including emails, records of persons communicated with, lists of Web sites visited,and mobile locations. And, of course, people share information through social networking sites.

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    How many times the Hon'ble IC show caused non-responding CPIOs ? Instead of penalizing they remand appeals to PIOs/FAAs indiscriminately, thereby increasing 30day time limit to more than 2 yrs. . How many times the IC penalized a habitual denying PIOs who take refuge u/s 8(1) indiscriminately, to reduce work load?

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    The respective data could be achieved under the RTI Act itself but I do’nt think that CIC would have accumulated such a vast details with them. Secondly, exemption clause 8(1)(j) has been not interpreted well to achieve the goal of the Act by the interpreting entities. It seems most of PIO’s as well as IC’s are taking refuse in shelter and shadow of it for not disclosing the information, though the Act was enacted for cleaning the corruption free India in spirit of transparency and accountability. The experience shows that PIO’s act like before to RTI Act and denies the information in garb of Section 8(1)(j) even though the matter relates to public domain like the procedure adopted after outcome of court proceedings of public servant in public service spectrum. The PIO’s wants to nip the entire information without hesitation by claiming to be falling in ambit of ‘Personal Information’ or ‘Right to privacy’ to avoid dispensation of same, the Hon’ble Apex Court has also held that Courts should not place reliance on decisions without discussing as to how the factual situation fits in with the fact situation of the decision on which reliance has been placed(SEE:Bharat Petroleoum Corporation Ltd. Vs N.R.Vairamani decided in 2004) albeit the PIO’s are placing reliance on “Girish R. Deshpande’s case in an RTI matter being in nature of different facts. I think that IC’s should impose heavy penalties on such PIO’s rather orchestrating with them. The effort should be collective to achieve the true spirit of the Act whether it may be information seeker, public authority or appellate forum at Information Commission, rather to taking shelter under the umbrella of Exemption section of Act and to stifle the real intent of the Act.

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