The Central Information Commission (CIC) has in a controversial decision ruled against making public the wealth details of its former top officials as well as of former bosses of the Election Commission.
The transparency watchdog has delivered many landmark verdicts, including one that led to the declaration of assets by judges of the Supreme Court and high courts last year.
But in its decision on an appeal filed by Pune-based right to information (RTI) activist Vihar Durve, who sought property details of former chief information commissioners Wajahat Habibullah and AN Tiwari and of former chief election commissioners N Gopalswami and Navin Chawla, the commission ruled in favour of secrecy.
“Property returns of the officers are submitted to the cadre authorities every year in confidence and disclosure of information contained would definitely be unwarranted invasion of privacy of the individual,” information commissioner Deepak Sandhu said in the order.
"If the applicant had any specific information with regard to any acts of corruption or disproportionate wealth in respect of any civil servant, he should pass it on to the designated organisations responsible for investigating such matters,” the commission ruled.
Criticising Durve, it said: “The role of investigating agencies can’t be assumed by any citizen along with the right to have access to personal information of third parties...”
“This order of the CIC is completely contradictory to what it ruled in January last year, when it asked Supreme Court to provide information under RTI on whether judges declare their assets to their chief justices,” Durve said.
He approached the CIC after he was denied the information by the department of personnel and training (DoPT) last year.
“The information sought by you is personal and exempt from disclosure under section 8 of the RTI Act,” the DoPT had written to Durve. Till now, only one information commissioner, Shailesh Gandhi, has declared his assets voluntarily.