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CIC directs National Law University to disclose comments of professors on their live-in relationship, in ‘larger public interest’ [Read Order]

Apoorva Mandhani
2 March 2016 5:13 AM GMT
CIC directs National Law University to disclose comments of professors on their live-in relationship, in ‘larger public interest’ [Read Order]
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Though LiveLaw got the copy of the Order while publishing the story, we didn't publish it since it contains the personal details of the parties. We have then requested the CIC to consider the removal of names from the Order. Now we are publishing the order since the CIC removed the names of the parties from the order.

In a recent ruling, the CIC directed a National Law University to disclose the views of two professors on their alleged live-in relationship, in order to foil any such rumors.

Information Commissioner, Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu concluded that “larger public interest” will be served by the disclosure, and observed, “The best interest of a prestigious law university, in so far as its law faculty concerned, lies in the fact that people should not discuss teachers for wrong reasons, such unfounded and unjustified allegations provoke rumor mongers to work overtime, who need to be silenced by disclosure. Best way of countering rumors is publicizing truthful information. It is also in best interest of the two faculty members. Thus, Commission concludes that larger public interest will be served by disclosure, and interest in disclosure will outweigh the interest in non-disclosure, as per the test prescribed under sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 8.”

The Commission further observed that the institute should not be harassed with multiple RTI questions on frivolous grounds as “they too have a duty to contribute towards the University to stand in its esteem as an example for the future generations of lawyers and judges”.

The application was filed by the step brother of the male faculty member’s wife. The CPIO had provided within a month, point wise information on the matter, besides stating that a three member committee has been constituted to examine the matter. He was informed that the complaint remained with the office of the Vice- Chancellor, office of the Registrar, Deputy Registrar and the office staff. A copy of the inquiry report was also provided to the applicant, as also the letters and reminders from Registrar to faculty members, seeking their comments on the complaint. He however filed further appeals, in order to seek more information.

The applicant had now demanded copies of letters containing comments that the two faculty members had submitted to the three-member committee. The question for consideration before the commission was hence whether the ‘comments’ in response to the complaint would be personal information of third parties, and would their disclosure serve any public interest.

At the outset, the Commission observed that the applicant’s status as the step brother of the wife of a professor at the law college would not entitle him with any right to seek his sister’s personal information under the Right to Information Act. A representation had also been made by the male faculty member’s wife, clearly stating that no marital relationship has subsisted between the two for many years now, and that the University should not entertain any complaint from her brother, as the information being sought is of private nature.

The Commission took into consideration his sister’s letter, and noted that he was not championing his sister’s cause. It further noted that in the absence of marriage, allegations of bigamy and adultery cannot stand at the prima facie level.

The Commission went on to examine the law related to bigamy, and inferred that as per the provisions, it is either of the wives who should complaint, and not their brother, “much less step brothers”.

It observed, “Coming to complaint against faculty members for being in a ‘live-in’ relationship to be inquired as breach of conduct also fails because none could show any illegality in such ‘live-in’ relation, if true, in this case when no party had earlier subsisting marriage. As no norm or conduct rule for faculty was found to be violated, it warrants no action from University. By filing a complaint without any authority, appellant chose RTI route to seek from University ‘action taken’ information on such complaint, which is yet another ground to suspect his motive.”

The Commission noted that the appellant had got all information except the comments from the two faculty members, in the two letters written by them. It however observed that non-disclosure of these letters might convey “wrongful impression that some unwanted personal affairs are being covered up (sic)”.

“Disclosure of this ‘no comment’ of the two faculty members cannot result in any invasion of their privacy. In fact, disclosing these ‘comments’ will fulfill demand of appellant in one way and protect the dignity of three persons- appellant’s sister and two professions. Hence, as per section 8(2) Commission finds that this information has to be given in larger public interest to secure the reputation of an institute of justice education,” the Commission explained.

Read the order here.

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