In what could be music to the ears of bureaucrats harassed by intrusive RTI pleas, the Delhi High Court has ruled documents pertaining to disciplinary proceedings are "personal information" and, therefore, cannot be made public.
Reversing a single judge's order, a division bench of chief justice D Murugesan and justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw said disclosure of such information would lead to unwarranted invasion of privacy of an individual under section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.The ruling came on an appeal filed by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) challenging an order of the single judge directing it to part with certain information relating to disciplinary proceedings against senior Indian Revenue Service officer GS Narang. The information was sought by RTI activist RK Jain.
Upholding a verdict of the Central Information Commission, the single judge had held that personal information should not have relation to any public activity to be exempt from disclosure. The single judge also said the disclosure of information in question was in larger public interest, keeping in view the objective of the Act.
However, citing the Supreme Court's verdict in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande versus Central Information Commissioner, the division bench reversed the order.
The division bench said, in the light of the aforesaid SC verdict, "We are not required to go into the correctness or otherwise of the reasoning given by the learned single judge."
It rejected Jain's argument that the UPSC in the present case was not the employer of the officer concerned and the principle laid down by the Supreme Court was applicable to the employer only.
"...we fail to see how it makes a difference whether the information relating to disciplinary proceedings is sought from the employer or from the consultant of the employer. What is exempt in the hands of the employer would certainly be exempt in the hands of consultant of the employer," division bench said.