Allowing a petition preferred by the Gujarat High Court administration, a single bench of Justice Biren Vaishnav quashed the order of the State Information Commission requiring the administration to disclose certain third party, personal information sought by a judicial officer under Right to Information Act.
The bench reiterated that information which is “personal" in nature and which does not serve any public interest cannot be provided under the Right to Information Act.
The judicial officer had sought information with regard to transfer requests of other judicial officers and High Court's internal communications on such requests. He had also sought information with respect to complaints and resolutions against a Judge.
The Public Information Officer had denied the request. In an appeal filed before the appellate authority, the judicial officer (respondent no. 2) contended that information with regard to certain item had not been provided. The Appellate authority while rejecting the appeal observed that since the information was personal in nature, could not be provided and certain other information was not clear.
Aggrieved by the order of the First Appellate Authority, the officer filed an appeal before the Gujarat Information Commission (respondent no.1). By the impugned order, the Appellate Authority directed the Public Information Officer to provide the remaining information within 15 days. Hence, this petition was filed.
Mr. Hemang Shah counsel for the High Court administration submitted that the Information Commission could not direct them to provide third party information in view of the embargo imposed in Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act. He further submitted that reading Section 8(1)(j) of the Act, the first part stipulates that personal information which has no relationship with any public activity or interest need not be disclosed. The second part indicates that any information which cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of an individual should not be disclosed unless the third part is satisfied and the third part of the section indicates that information which causes invasion to privacy of an individual will not be disclosed in larger public interest.
Mr. M.M. Saiyed counsel for the respondent argued that there was no violation of any information which could have unwarranted invasion of privacy. Even otherwise such information could have been provided by issuing notice to such third parties.
Justice Biren Vaishnav observed that no fault can be found with the order of the First Appellate Authority in refusing to part with certain information. The Court relied upon Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Cen. Information Commr. And Ors. (2013) 1 SCC 212 where the supreme court has held that that certain information which is “personal information” as defined under Clause j of Section 8(1) of the Act, cannot be provided.
The court has also put emphasis upon R.K.Jain v. Union of India (UOI) and Ors. 2013 14 SCC 794 in which the supreme court observed: “The petitioner in the instant case has not made a bona fide public interest in seeking information, the disclosure of such information would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of the individual under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act.”
In conclusion the Court held:
"What is evident from reading the information which was sought for was with regard to the decisions of the High Court on the option forms of general transfers and communications connected with it and representations and communications to him. Point no.9 dealt with the certified copy of the representations of transfer submitted by the batch-mate of the petitioner and the decisions of High Court on such representation. Relying on Section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act, the authority in the opinion of this Court rightly rejected such information."
It thus set aside directions issued by the Second Appellate Authority.
Case Title: High Court of Gujarat v. Gujarat Information Commission and 1 other