20 March 2022 5:17 AM GMT
The Tripura High Court last week dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) plea which challenged the constitutional validity of Section 11 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 on the ground that the same is ultra-vires of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.Essentially, the petitioner was concerned with the 'deplorable' condition of the native and smuggled wildlife species,...
The Tripura High Court last week dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) plea which challenged the constitutional validity of Section 11 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 on the ground that the same is ultra-vires of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
Essentially, the petitioner was concerned with the 'deplorable' condition of the native and smuggled wildlife species, who find their way either in a government or privately owned zoological park/rescue center/rehabilitation center and thereafter kept in private set-ups.
In view of this, when the petitioner sought to know the condition of such wildlife species who are kept in private set up by way of filing an RTI application, the information sought was denied [as per Section 11 of the RTI Act] on the ground that the information relates to the private third party and therefore, the private parties need to to give consent before the information regarding the conditions of the animals in such set-up could be disclosed.
Against this backdrop, the petitioner moved the Court challenging Section 11 of the RTI Act by terming it as a 'restricting' provision. The Petitioner argued that this provision requires a private third party to give consent before the appropriate authority can disclose information about the conditions of the animals in such a set-up.
At the outset, the Bench of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice S. G. Chattopadhyay observed that Section 11 of the RTI Act is applicable when the information sought to be disclosed is 'relating to or supplied by a third party' and has been treated as confidential, by that third party.
Further, the Court observed that to know, whether information 'relating to or supplied by the third party' has been treated as confidential by that third party, Public Information Officer has to give notice and that he/she cannot unilaterally decide, on its own, that the information, sought for by the applicant, is confidential or not.
"Whether information has been treated as confidential, by the third party or not, that can be said only by the third party and upon getting such submission in writing or orally, Public Information Officer has to consider them while taking a decision about disclosure of information," the Court added.
In view of this, the Court observed that no information regarding the Greens Zoological Rescue and Rehabilitation Kingdome or any such private set-up can be provided under the RTI act without the consent of such party.
With this, the Court underscored that the Provisions of RTI cannot be read down to make the privacy of individuals amenable to fishing inquiry and it added that a fine balance is required to be maintained between public interest and privacy/confidentiality of private party.
"In order to outweigh the privacy/confidentiality of a third party; presumptions and baseless allegations alone are not sufficient, and the seeker of information must set out compelling grounds and circumstances rooted in facts to warrant infringement of privacy/confidentiality," the Court further stressed as it dismissed the PIL plea.
Case title - Sri Mrigankar Sekhar Dey v. Union of India and another
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