The Central Information Commission has dismissed an appeal filed by an RTI applicant who had sought personal information such as religion and passport details of the Congress Leader and Member of Parliament Rahul Gandhi.
The following queries were made before the External Affairs Ministry by Dr. Sanjeev Goel. As the ministry refused to answer his queries, he had approached the CIC in appeal.
- How many passports have been issued by any Government in the world to Mr. Rahul Gandhi or alias, if any, bearing photograph of Mr. Rahul Gandhi, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha, India?
- If more than one passport has been issued bearing his photograph, address and details of all passports be provided.
- What was his religion at the time of birth?
- What is his religion by virtue of his faith at present?"
The appellant contended that he has a right to know the religion of Rahul Gandhi who is a public figure and considering the public interest in the matter, the information pertaining to his passport details and religion should be disclosed to him, as no exemption is applicable in this case. The ministry contended that disclosure of the information sought would cause unwarranted invasion of the third party's privacy and no any larger public interest is involved in the matter
The Commissioner Neeraj Kumar Gupta, referred to various Supreme Court and High Court judgments on the scope of the provisions of Section 8(1)(j) of the Right To Information Act. Section 8 provides that information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has not 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
The contentions put forth by the appellant with regards to 'public interest' element on the premise of Mr. Rahul Gandhi being a public figure does not stand a chance for disclosure of his personal information such as religion and passport details. Furthermore, the appellant has also failed to substantiate that the information sought is in line with the proviso appended to Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005. Hence, in the absence of any larger public interest in the matter, this Commission comes to a conclusion that the information sought by the appellant qualifies to be the 'personal information' of third party which is exempted under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005 and therefore, it cannot be provided to the appellant.