The Madhya Pradesh High Court, while upholding an order of Central Information Commission (CIC), has observed that a wife is entitled to know what remuneration her husband is getting.
In this case, the wife had filed a petition seeking maintenance from her husband in which she alleged that, as a very high officer in the Telecommunication Department (BSNL), her husband is drawing salary more than Rs. 2,25,000 per month. She sought this information from BSNL through the RTI, which was denied. After a few rounds of litigations, the matter reached the Central Information Commission, which passed the order under Section 4(1)(b)(x) of the Right to Information Act directing BSNL to comply with the provisions of the Act by making information about remuneration available on the public domain.
The husband, and his employer, BSNL, approached the Madhya Pradesh High Court challenging the CIC order. The single bench set aside the CIC order referring to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande vs. Central Information Commissioner and others. In the said case, the apex court had held copies of all memos, show cause notices and orders of censure/punishment, assets, income tax returns, details of gifts received etc. by a public servant are personal information as defined in Clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act.
The issue before the bench of Justice SK Seth and Justice Nandita Dubey in the writ appeal filed by the wife was whether the information sought is exempt under Section 8(1)(j) of the Act or it is covered by Section 4(1)(b)(x) which obliges the public authorities to display on public domain the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees.
It was argued that it is a personal information, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest or would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of the employee.
However, the bench observed: While dealing with the Section 8(1)(j) of the Act, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the appellant and the respondent No.1 are husband and wife and as a wife she is entitled to know what remuneration the respondent No.1 is getting.
The court allowed the writ appeal and upheld the CIC order, setting aside the single bench order.