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  1. As reported at deccanherald.com on 14 February 2011 ncome Tax authorities here have declined to reveal the details of the tax returns filed by NHRC Chairperson Justice K G Balakrishnan and 7 family members on an application filed under the Right to Information act, after the former CJI objected to the disclosures. The application was filed by Dr T Balachandran following allegations of wealth disproprotionate to known sources of income against the family members of Justice Balakrishnan. The appliacant had sought information and documents certified copies of the IT returns submitted by Justice Balakrishnan for the financial years 2005-06 to 2009-10, details of investigation and enquiry conducted by the department against him and his son, K B Pradeep, two daughters -- Sony and Rani, sons-in law M J Benny and P V Sreenijan and brother K G Bhaskaran and certified copies of the reports and related documents with file notes relating to the investigation and enquiry conducted by the IT department if any. The IT department had isued a letter to Justice Balakrishnan to furnish his objections in connection with the disclosure of the docuemnts. In response to the letter, Justice Balakrishnan filed a letter dated Feb 5, objecting to the disclose the above information stating that disclosure of the information sought for by Dr balachandran is one which is exempted from disclosure as per sect 8(i) of the RTI act, 2005. 'Information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarrnated invasion of the piracy of the individual are completely exempted from disclosure unless the Central Public Information officer or the state Public Information Officer of the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justified the disclosure of such information', justice balakrishnan stated. Rejecting the application, K Sudhakaran Pillai, Central Public Information Officer and Income tax officer, ward 3(1), Kochi said there is nothing mentioned in the applcation as to how the disclosure of the information would serve the larger interest. The applicant's counsel, advocate D B Binu, said they would be filing an appeal against the order within 30 days.
  2. As reported by RAGHAV OHRI at indianexpress.com on Nov 29 2010 Chandigarh : A division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has dismissed the petition filed by former director general of police of Haryana, P C Wadhwa, on whether the Registrar General, Census Operations, is bound to provide details of the religion and faith of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and her children under the Act. The Bench comprising Chief Justice Mukul Mudgal and Justice Ranjan Gogoi dismissed the plea and ruled the information demanded on the religion of an individual is entirely personal. "It is evident that the petitioner is making efforts to make unjustified inroads into the privacy of the individuals even if they are public figure and consequently the information cannot be made public," the division Bench ruled. This is being considered a landmark judgment on the right to privacy of Indian citizens and whether private information such as religion and belief of an individual can be provided to anybody under the Right to Information Act (RTI). Wadhwa, a former director-general of police-rank officer, had asked if he was entitled under the RTI Act to obtain details of the religion followed by Sonia Gandhi, her daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and son Rahul Gandhi, who is general secretary of the All India Congress Committee. Wadhwa had sought information from the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the office of Registrar General, Census Operations, under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs about the religion mentioned by Sonia Gandhi and her children during the last census. His application was rejected by the CPIO as well as the appellate authority. Thereafter, he filed a second appeal before the Central Information Commission (CIC), where his contention was that Sonia Gandhi, the late Rajiv Gandhi and other members of the family were public figures who had projected certain public image regarding their religious belief and faith. He also referred to media reports that said contradictory things about the religion of the couple and their children. When the CIC rejected his contentions, he sought the review of the order on the ground that the Gandhi couple’s “publicly displayed faith was divergent from the reality of their faith”. He also asserted that the country was entitled to know what the truth was. However, in March 2008, the CIC rejected the prayer for a review of the earlier order, pointing out that the CIC has said it time and again that matters private to an individual couldn’t be forced out into the public under the RTI Act. “The sanctity of the private domain must be kept inviolate at all times,” the CIC order said.
  3. Atul Patankar

    Taxmen deluged with ‘ex’ files

    As reported by Suchith Kidiyoor at bangaloremirror.com on September 23 The income tax department receives at least five RTI applications a week from estranged spouses and in-laws, seeking information on the other’s financial status. But it refuses to divulge personal details to a third party Priya, a divorcee from Bihar, had received alimony regularly from her former husband. The Rs 8,000 which he sent her every month had helped the homemaker maintain a fairly decent lifestyle. But all this ended a few months ago when the steady stream of income dried up altogether. She approached the court to ensure she was paid every month, but notices sent to him yielded no reply. Priya eventually learnt that her former husband had found a new job in Bangalore and had moved to the city. Finding him in a new city, however, was as good as looking for a needle in a haystack. She then hit on what seemed a bright idea. She had her former husband’s PAN number, so she decided to approach the income tax department through the Right to Information Act (RTI), not only to locate her husband, but also secure information on where he is employed, the salary he draws and properties he owns. Her query drew a blank. Steady rise Officials at the I-T department say there has been a steady increase in the number of RTI applications filed by estranged couples, mostly techies, seeking information especially of the financial kind – on their former spouse. The department, however, rejects these applications because they cannot divulge information about an individual to a third party. “We are not sure why estranged couples want to know personal details of their former spouse,” an I-T department official said. “It’s not just women, but men too who seek information on the economic status of their former spouse. However, the Act does not allow us to divulge information about an individual to a third party. People could misuse the information by harassing their former partners. People have given their personal details because of the confidence they have in the I-T department. We cannot breach that trust whether that party is the persons father, mother, wife, husband or child,” the official said. Ravindranath Guru, RTI activist and convenor of Karnataka RTI Activist Forum agreed: “However, a court can seek a confidential report from the I-T department while hearing cases. There are instances of divorced women or couples on the verge of separation filing RTI to know their spouse’s financial status. In most cases, the information is sought to harass someone,” he said. On an average, the department receives five applications a week, officials say. But they only divulge information if they directed to do so by the Central Information Commission. “If we reject an application, applicants can appeal. Again if it is rejected by the appellate authority, applicants can then approach the Central Information Commission. We provide the information only if the commission or the court directs us to provide the information.” Officials say they have even received applications from in-laws. “Parents too file RTI application asking us to provide details on the financial status of their daughter-in-law or son-in-law, especially when they learn that their marriage is on the verge of breaking up. They might be seeking this information to spy on their in laws,” the official said. For instance, Ramegowda had filed an application seeking details on his son-in-law who worked in a software firm, following a dispute between his daughter and her husband. Ramegowda had wanted details on his son-in-law’s I-T returns and Form 16. He had also wanted details on his current employer, residential address and property he owned. But he couldn’t get any of the information. Reason for rejection An official said: “We rejected the application under section 7 (1) of the Act which forbids us to divulge details which invades the privacy of an individual. It is quite possible that this information would be used to harass the son-in-law, so the law forbids us to give out these details.” (Some names have been changed)
  4. As reported at ptinews.com on 29 January 2010 New Delhi, Jan 29 (PTI) The disclosure of attendance roll of a government official does not mean invasion of privacy and should be given to an RTI applicant, the Central Information Commission has held. "The disclosure of the photocopy of the attendance register cannot be considered an invasion of the privacy of an individual and hence does not fall under the exemption of the RTI Act," Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi held. The case relates to an RTI applicant Om Prakash who sought details of attendance register of a Delhi Transport Corporation employee, which was refused by the department citing section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act. The section allows withholding information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest. Source: fullstory
  5. Atul Patankar

    Privacy defined to check invasion

    As reported by Rakesh Bhatnagar at dnaindia.com on June 17, 2009 The Central Information Commission has tried to create a plausible definition of ‘privacy’ to assist lawmakers who might enact a clear law against ‘invasion of privacy’. “One who intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the solitude 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,” the CIC picked up the definition from the US Restatement of the Law on Torts. In a ruling on Tuesday, the information watchdog headed by Wajahat Habibullah ruled that details of property belonging to erstwhile princely states and owned by maharajas cannot be disclosed under the RTI. Basanti Lal Singhvi, an applicant, wanted to know about Saheliyon-Ki-Bari — a private property of the erstwhile maharaja of Udaipur. He claimed to have purchased land from the royal in 1963. But a PIL said the property belonged to the government which the royal had no right to sell.In 1951, the ministry of states agreed to recognise Laxmi Vilas Palace and Sahelion-ki-badi gardens as the royal’s private property. The issue of privacy cropped up after former ruler Arvind Singh said he would be harassed if the disclosure was made. He did not argue on violation of privacy. “If an MP had sought information about the property, the home ministry would have taken the same stand and denied information,” Habibullah said. The CIC chief regretted that “we do not have a law of privacy in India. There’s no definition of ‘invasion of privacy’ in the RTI Act. Source: Privacy defined to check invasion
  6. As reported by Abhinav Garg, TNN at timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 31 May 2009 NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court thinks any transparency on action taken against errant trial court judges is "an unwarranted invasion of their privacy.'' For it has quelled an attempt to access these details in an application made to it under the Right to Information Act. HC has sought refuge behind its rule 5 (b) of Delhi High Court (RTI rules) to block information as the rule allows it to withhold information on this ground. "A number of complaints against judicial officers have been received in the vigilance branch during the last 10 years and on the basis of that, necessary action has been taken against erring judicial officers. The details of same can't be disclosed as it would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of the individual'' says an RTI reply received from HC. The reply came on an RTI filed by a lawyer who had asked the method by which HC monitors the conduct of trial court judges, along with details of action taken against whom complaints were received pertaining to corruption or misconduct. While HC was quick to acknowledge that it has a vigilance branch for "supervizing and keeping watch on the conduct of trial court judges'' it chose to be non-transparent when asked to elaborate. For instance, the RTI pleas' pointed query on details of 10 oldest complaints still pending against trial court judges was shot down, again on the ground that it would cause "unwarranted invasion of privacy of the individual.'' Similarly, when the RTI plea demanded to know the standards on which performance of judges is evaluated, HC promptly outlines these as knowledge of law/procedure, disposal of cases, quality of judgments, efficiency, reputation for honesty etc. But it remained unyielding on disclosing anything more. On being pressed for details like "how many judges have failed to meet the required evaluation consideration'' or "what action is taken against a judge who fails to meet the standard'' HC relied on its special RTI rule to deny information. The most that the court was willing to reveal was that whenever a complaint is received against any judicial officer, it is "laid before chief justice for consideration and orders and necessary action is then taken.'' Source: HC refuses to share info on errant judges - Delhi - Cities - The Times of India
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