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Friday, December 21, 2012

Income Tax Details can be disclosed under Right to Information if it concerns "Larger Public Interests" - held Supreme Court

Scope of disclosure of certain Income Tax Details under RTI

Supreme Court in the case of 


has held that,-

"The details disclosed by a person in his income tax returns are “personal information” which stands exempted from disclosure under clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act, unless it involves a larger public interest and the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information."


Whether the Central Information Commissioner (for short 'the CIC') acting under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (for short 'the RTI Act') was right in denying information regarding the third respondent's personal matters pertaining to his service career and also denying the details of his assets and liabilities, movable and immovable properties on the ground that the information sought for was qualified to be personal information as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act?


The petitioner  sought for copies of all memos, show cause notices and censure/punishment awarded to the third respondent from his employer and also details viz. movable and immovable properties and also the details of his investments, lending and borrowing from Banks and other financial institutions. Further, he has also sought for the details of gifts stated to have accepted by the third respondent, his family members and friends and relatives at the marriage of his son. The information mostly sought for finds a place in the income tax returns of the third respondent. 

The question for consideration is whether the above-mentioned information sought for qualifies to be "personal information" as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act.

As far as the scope of the Sec-8 (1) is concerned it states as follows:-

Exemption from disclosure of information.-

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen,-

(e) information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;

(g) information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes;

(j) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no 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."

Observation by Supreme Court:

Upon deciding the issue Supreme court observed and categorically held that, the details as called for by the petitioner such as ( copies of all memos issued to the third respondent, show cause notices and orders of censure/punishment etc. are qualified to be personal information ) as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. 

Further held that, the performance of an employee/officer in an organization is primarily a matter between the employee and the employer and normally those aspects are governed by the service rules which fall under the expression "personal information", the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or public interest. On the other hand, the disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of that individual. 

Held that,-

"The petitioner in the instant case has not made a bonafide public interest in seeking information, the disclosure of such information would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of the individual under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act."

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