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  1. On a second appeal hearing filed in reference to leakages of Confidential Data filed by the Tax Payer, it was observed that maintaining the privacy, the record keeping in the public authority as explained by the Income Tax Department was in an outdated format and not upgraded utilizing the modern technological tools. Commission after considering the gravity and seriousness of the issues raised by the Appellant, found that there is an emergent requirement to investigate the root cause of the leakages of Confidential Data filed by the Tax Payers and plug the loopholes forthwith. The commission asked Pr. CCIT to investigate the matter considering that it is essential to protect the Confidential Financial Data filed by millions of Tax Payers from falling into wrong hands in the larger public interest. Income Tax records are in outdated format The Appellant Mr. Badal Satapathy stated during the hearing that his income tax returns for several years were provided to the Third Party without his consent. It was submitted that he had brought to the notice of the Income Tax Department by submitting documentary evidence about few serious threats/ loopholes in their computerized data storage system, leveraging which few scrupulous employees of the department were selling highly confidential financial data of Indian Citizens/ Tax Payers to third parties without the knowledge of the tax payer or any Court Orders. The decision can be downloaded here: Badal Satapathy-Income-tax-rti For any queries relating to Right to Information, kindly visit our forums.
  2. Without Disclosure of objections of the third-party information, the appellant cannot make an informed judgement about challenging the Appellate Authority (AA) decision. Denying the RTI Applicant the requested information will mean handicapping him in exercising his legal right. A decision not to disclose the information to the petitioner in view of the objections of the third-party is itself justiciable. CIC noted that: The petitioner has every right to question the decision of the CPIO or the AA about not disclosing a third-party related information ― a right which cannot be discharged unless the full facts about the reason for objection by the third-party is disclosed to the petitioner. Disclosure of objections of the third-party is a right It is to be noted that the third-party procedure to be followed under the RTI Act is governed, among others, by Section 11(1) of the Act. A public authority is required to consult the third-party, who might have provided the information in confidence to the public authority, and then make a determination about disclosure of the information especially in the context of the exemptions in Section 8(1) as spelt-out in Section 11(3) of the Act. The decision of the CPIO is to be communicated to the third-party. A reading of sub-sections (1) and (3) of Section 11 of the RTI Act makes it clear that a procedure about consulting the third-party in writing is to be followed in a matter which is covered by these sub-sections of Section 11. It is also clear that the only reason why a third-party related information cannot be disclosed to a petitioner is the fact that the third-party objects to the disclosure and that the CPIO / AA accede to those objections and decline to disclose the information to the petitioner. A decision not to disclose the information to the petitioner in view of the objections of the third-party is itself justiciable. The CIC decided that objections of the third-party, should be disclosed to the applicant. The decision can be read here and the related decision here! You can read more decisions and related discussions on Third Party here!
  3. In an unprecedented decision, CIC imposed a penalty over RTI Applicant even though the RTI Act do not provide for the same. Central Information Commission while deciding the case recorded that "Though the RTI Act has not provided to impose penalty against the RTI applicant, the Commission record its contempt against RTI Applicant for misusing the RTI Act against the school child and imposed a penalty of Re. 10/­ which is to be paid to the Principal of the School". Commission, also directed the then CPIO and the Principal of the School to show cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed on both of them and disciplinary action be initiated against both of them for not complying with the provision of Section 11 of RTI Act and causing breach of the privacy of the child and his parents. The Commission directs the Principal and CPIO to show cause why compensation of Rs 1000 each be paid to the child for the loss they caused by breaching his privacy. The Commission holds that information exempted under section 8(1)(j) was disclosed and because of which the right to privacy of the child and his parents was violated by the Principal and CPIO. The Commission directs the CPIO and Principal not to disclose the personal information of the students to any person, much less to his so called relatives without following the procedure under Section 11 of the RTI Act. CIC imposed penalty over both PIO and RTI Applicant Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case of R.K Jain vs. Union of India [sLP © No.22609 of 2012] dated 16.04.2013 had Highlighted the importance of Section 11 of the RTI Act. Read more about Privacy under RTI Act here: What is Privacy under RTI Act. You can download the decision here: Lalit Kapur v. PIO, Deputy Director of Education (North East­B) Appellant had sought for information regarding a student of R.D Public School. He wanted copy of the transfer certificate of class XI on the basis of which the student got admission in class XII, details of the school no./roll no./school registration no. and date of admission of the school etc CIC noted that it is interrogative in nature and RTI Applicant is fishing to find basis to embarrass the child or his family not with a good motive and for some unspecified purpose, which is certainly not ‘public purpose’. The CPIO committed breach of S 11 of RTI Act and ignored the order of Supreme Court of India in the above mentioned case. The CPIO should have considered the question of welfare of the child from the relatives who were in family dispute with the parents of the child.
  4. Name and Educational Qualification can never be considered as private information. Address of an applicant in certain context can be protected from disclosure where security issues are raised. This was stated by Central Information Commission in one of its latest decision. The appellant had pleaded that when an applicant gives an application along with certain details which are required for consideration for appointment on compassionate ground, then it cannot be considered as private information. It is the duty of authority to explain why particular application is considered while others are rejected, when a case is taken up naturally and why others are put in cold storage. Name and Educational Qualification PIO had denied information saying that information sought contains personal details of other applicants. The Commission finds that the concerned section has deliberately suppressing information by raising unnecessary excuses and directed the PIO to give all the details. The decision can be read here!
  5. It is a settled proposition of law that details of official tours, leave record of a public servant are not exempted per se from disclosure. The citizenry has a right to seek information regarding acts done by a public servant in discharge of his official duties except when the same is qualified under Section 8 of the RTI Act, 2005. Medical details of the spouse of an officer is personal information The CIC in its decision stated that medical details of the spouse of concerned officer are personal in nature and revelation thereof shall cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy. Read Similar stories: Privacy Rights of Public Servants The decision is available here!
  6. rtiindia

    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. Here are the participating discussions at our forums: Click Here!
  7. [caption id=attachment_296" align="alignright" width="300] Larger Public Interest[/caption] A mere allegation of evasion by Smt Sonia Gandhi cannot be construed to fall under larger public interest of RTI Act 2005. Public interest does not mean that which is interesting as gratifying curiosity or love of information or amusement; but that in which a class of the community have a pecuniary interest, or some interest by which their rights or liabilities are affected. Further the commission stated that "whenever the querist applicant wishes to seek information, the disclosure of which can be made only upon existence of certain special circumstances, for example- the existence of larger public interest, the querist should in the application (moved under Section 6 of the Act) disclose/ plead the special circumstance, so that the PIO concerned can apply his mind to it, and, in case he decides to issue notice to the concerned third party under Section 11 of the Act, the third party is able to effectively deal with the same. Only then the PIO/appellate authority/CIC would be able to come to an informed decision whether, or not, the special circumstances exist in a given case." Larger Public Interest Earlier Vide RTI dt 12.11.11, appellant had sought copies of ITRs and balance sheet submitted by Smt Sonia Gandhi for the period 2000-2011.CPIO vide letter dt 5.12.11, observed that the information sought relates to personal information, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public interest and disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of the assessee and hence information was denied u/s 8(1)(j). CPIO stated that "a notice u/s 11 of the RTI Act was sent to the third party, who had objected to disclosure of private information as it would amount to unwarranted invasion of the individual’s privacy. It was further observed that as there was no overriding public interest involved, the request was rejected u/s 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act." The contention of the appellant before the CIC was that there is evasion of tax as evident from the affidavit filed by her before the Election Commission in 2004. As such there is larger public interest in disclosure of the Returns. The CIC has in turn quoted that: "The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Girish Ramchandra Deshpande has held that details disclosed by a person in his Income Tax Returns are ‘personal information’ which stands exempt from disclosure u/s 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act unless it involves larger public interest and the CPIO or the AA is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information." The Hon’ble High Court in the case of UPSC Vs RK Jain decided on 13.7.2012, has defined public interest as follows: “25. “Public interest” is also a ground for taking away the exemption from disclosure of personal information. Therefore, a querist may seek personal information of a person from a public authority in public interest. The second half of the first part of clause (j) of Section 8(1) shows that when personal information in respect of a person is sought, the authority concerned shall weigh the competing claims i.e., the claim for the protection of personal information of the concerned person on the one hand, and the claim of public interest on the other, and if “public interest” justifies disclosure, i.e., the public interest outweighs the need for protection of personal information, the concerned authority shall disclose the information. 26. For example, a querist may seek from the income tax authorities- the details of the income tax returns filed by private individual/juristic entity - if the querist can justify the disclosure of such personal information on the anvil of public interest. The authorities would, in such cases, be cautious to ensure that the ground of “public interest” is not routinely used as a garb by busy bodies to pry on the personal affairs of individual private citizens/entities, as it would be against public interest (and not in public interest) to permit such personal information of third parties to fall into the hands of anybody or everybody. 227. At this stage, I may digress a little and observe that whenever the querist applicant wishes to seek information, the disclosure of which can be made only upon existence of certain special circumstances, for example- the existence of public interest, the querist should in the application (moved under Section 6 of the Act) disclose/ plead the special circumstance, so that the PIO concerned can apply his mind to it, and, in case he decides to issue notice to the concerned third party under Section 11 of the Act, the third party is able to effectively deal with the same. Only then the PIO/appellate authority/CIC would be able to come to an informed decision whether, or not, the special circumstances exist in a given case. 28. I may also observe that public interest does not mean that which is interesting as gratifying curiosity or love of information or amusement; but that in which a class of the community have a pecuniary interest, or some interest by which their rights or liabilities are affected. The expression “public interest” is not capable of a precise definition and has not a rigid meaning and is elastic and takes its colors from the statute in which it occurs, the concept varying with the time and the state of the society and its needs. [see Advanced Law Lexicon, Third Edition].” 9. A mere allegation of evasion cannot be construed as larger public interest. The Commission concurs with the decision of the CPIO/AA. More discussions over forum http://www.rtiindia.org/forum/114318-new-file-added-asset-details-only-when-larger-public-interest.html http://www.rtiindia.org/forum/113550-rti-question-what-public-interest-relation-rti.html http://www.rtiindia.org/forum/112639-public-interest-vs-private-interest.html Related articles across the web Can I obtain information from Private Body under RTI? RTI for Ration Card - Third Party Information under Larger Public Interest Information Commission has no power to send the complaint back
  8. An RTI applicant which sought information RTI on Rotomac Pvt Ltd, the amount of income tax paid by them since establishment and related issues was shot down by CIC on the premises that disclosure by a person in his Income Tax Returns are ‘personal information’ which stands exempt from disclosure u/s 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act. However, application went through 4 PIO's before the final PIO decided to shot down the applicant which sought RTI on Rotomac. CPIO, o/o CIT(CCA) Kanpur vide letter dt 6.5.13, transferred the RTI to Commissioner, IT-2 , Kanpur, who vide letter dt 9.5.13, transferred it to CPIO, o/o Addl CIT, Range 6, Kanpur. Vide letter dt 14.5.13, the RTI was transferred to ACIT- VI, Kanpur for providing a response to the appellant directly. CPIO/ACIT-VI vide letter dt 4.6.13, informed appellant that in terms of the order of the Supreme Court in the case of Girish Ramchandra Deshpande, the information sought is not in wider public interest and hence the same was denied. The Commission concurs with the decision of the public authority in denying the information u/s 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act in the light of the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Girish Ramchandra Deshpande. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Girish Ramchandra Deshpande has held that details disclosed by a person in his Income Tax Returns are ‘personal information’ which stands exempt from disclosure u/s 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act unless it involves larger public interest and the CPIO or the AA is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.” The information seeker had not applied the Public Interest clause in his application where in when personal information in respect of a person is sought, the authority concerned shall weigh the competing claims i.e., the claim for the protection of personal information of the concerned person on the one hand, and the claim of public interest on the other, and if “public interest” justifies disclosure, i.e., the public interest outweighs the need for protection of personal information, the concerned authority shall disclose the information. The court has earlier said that a querist may seek from the income tax authorities- the details of the income tax returns filed by private individual/juristic entity – if the querist can justify the disclosure of such personal information on the anvil of public interest. RTI on Rotomac ROTOMAC GLOBAL PRIVATE LIMITED, formerly Rotomac Pens Private Limited belonging to VIKRAM KOTHARI ENTERPRISES, was incorporated in the year 1992. The project was conceived with an objective to provide good quality and economically priced ball pens. Soon, the Company set up world-class integrated production facilities to manufacture and supply writing instruments which made this relatively new entrant into a well known brand in a very short span of time. With a strong customer base, today Rotomac is one of the leading manufacturer and exporter of a diversified range of ball pens. (Rajiv Mathur) Central Information Commissioner File No.CIC/RM/A/2013/001054, 03.01.2014 Shri Amit Bajpai, Kanpur ACIT-VI and Addl. CIT, Range-6, Kanpur If you want to read more about obtaining information from Private organisations, you must read these following threads: How to get information of private entity under RTI? Information under RTI ACT from Private entity: Some important Decisions Read all discussions from our forum regarding Private body under RTI Related articles across the web Can I obtain information from Private Body under RTI? 25 Best Articles on RTI RTI INDIA Mobile App as an innovative tool for crusaders RTI Directory- Deposit your RTI with us
  9. [caption id=attachment_218" align="alignright" width="300] RTI and Privacy[/caption] RTI and Privacy, the right of access to information and the right to protection of personal privacy are irreconcilable. Right to information (RTI) laws provide a fundamental right for any person to access information held by government organisations. At the same time, right to privacy laws grant individuals a fundamental right to control the collection of,access to, and use of personal information about them that is held by governments and private bodies. However, the reality is more complex. Privacy and RTI are often described as “two sides of the same coin” — mainly acting as complementary rights that promote individuals’ rights to protect themselves and to promote government accountability. On one hand under RTI Act the collection of information by governments is done on behalf of its citizens, and the public is only truly able to participate in the democratic process when it has information about the activities and policies of the government. A right of an individual, organization, to demand information from public bodies, without having to show a legal interest in that information is the essence of RTI Act 2005. On the other hand Privacy is considered essential in protecting an individual’s ability to develop ideas and personal relationships. Although it is often summarized as “the right to be left alone,” it encompasses a wide range of rights—including protection from intrusions into family and home life and communications secrecy. 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. There are many applications called as Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) which are used by many companies and Government to collect citizen information. All of these have led to concerns about abuses,including misuse of information for unlawful purposes and identity theft. Government of India is in process of bringing in legislation under Right to Privacy. We have already started our website to address this important issue, and shall be populated in due course of time. Please check the beta version here! Privacy is increasingly being challenged by new technologies and practices.The technologies facilitate the growing collection and sharing of personal information. Sensitive personal data (including biometrics) are now collected and used routinely by organisations such as UIADI e.t.c. Public records are being disclosed over the Internet from the social networking sites. Availability of Government information, RTI Act, and judicial decisions have led to many thoughts about rules governing access to personal information that is held by public bodies. It is here the two Rights 'RTI and Privacy' comes very very close. RTI and Privacy Laws can both complement and conflict with each other,depending on the situation. RTI and Privacy In India right now there is no general privacy law giving individuals a right of access to their own records,the RTI laws are the only means to access personal records. RTI Act 2005 are regularly used by us for the poor to obtain records on distribution of food subsidies to show that individuals’ names have been forged and records have been falsified. Thus in many cases, RTI and Privacy can overlap in a complementary manner. Both RTI and Privacy can provide an individual access to his or her own personal information from government bodies, and privacy laws shall allow for access to personal information held by private entities.They also can mutually enhance each other: privacy laws are used to obtain policy information in the absence of an RTI law, and RTI laws are used to enhance privacy by revealing abuses. Governments collect large amounts of personal information,and sometimes there is a demand to access that information for various reasons.The requestors include journalists investigating stories, Activist groups fighting for transparency and accountability, individuals demanding to know why a decision was made in a certain way, companies seeking information for marketing purposes, and activists and scholars researching recent and not-so-recent events. RTI Act 2005 Section 8 j provides for the RTI and Privacy details: j. 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: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. 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. However, in India there is a strong attempt by Political parties to exempt themselves from RTI Act. Read our Blog here! Other such materials are includes great amounts of Government bureaucratic records with information that most people consider sensitive—such as records relating to citizen’s interactions with government bodies for taxation and to their health care. An increasing controversy relates to access to information in public registers,such as birth, marriage,and death registers; electoral registers; land records; lists of license holders; and other similar records. In many countries, there has been along history of public access to these records. However, concern over their use for commercial purposes, for stalking, and for other reasons not related to their original purposes is a potential threat as the information have been digitized and made available over the Internet. Are we prepared to face that? On the other hand, the misuse of privacy exemptions under section 8 j, often leads to needless conflict between the media and privacy protectors as the media and activist comes to believe that any privacy law is an attempt to hide government activities. In this light, a food for thought is to have a single law for both RTI and Privacy. This shall have a limiting conflict and establishing a balance. However, this possibility is remote in India as we have already adopted RTI Act 2005. Therefore, the new Law 'Right to Privacy Act' adopted in a way that ensures the greatest harmony between the operations of the two laws RTI and Privacy. If the goal of harmony is ignored at the outset,the laws will conflict and further Parliamentary legislative efforts will be required later. The article is written by taking major reference from the World Bank study available here!
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