Scope Of Section 8 (1)(j) of The RTI act
“Privacy As A Basis Of Claiming Exemption”
“Information is the lifeblood of democracy. Without adequate access to key information about government policies and programs, citizens and parliamentarians can’t make informed decision and incompetent or corrupt governments can be hidden under a cloak of secrecy”.-- Stephen Harper
Right to information is basis to any democracy. A vibrant citizenry is a prerequisite for survival of democratic society and governance .It is not possible to have a rightful expression as a right without right to information as basis to freedom of speech.
Famous Judge of Supreme Court V.R.Krishna Iyer very aptly finds the source of Right to Information from Rig-Veda and Bible.
He says “From the Rig-Veda downwards the Indian heritage has been an eclectic universality and cultural hospitality for creative ideas and educative information”
“Let Noble Thoughts come from every side”
And from Bible “And ye shall know the truth ,
And the truth shall make you free”
Section 8 is the most important part of the act and it is very simple for officialdoms to reject the request for information if it falls under any of these long, general and ambiguous clauses of exemptions. This section is general and can be interpreted in either way. However RTI act 2005 is far better and open than Freedom of Information act 2002, there were many restriction and provision were ambiguous though RTI act 2005 also have restriction under section 8 but this are less in complexity and more in number than Freedom of Information act 2002.
In this research paper I have tried to explain and know how we should be balancing between one person’s Right to know and another’s Right To Privacy as it’s always been recognized by universal legal principle that “Exercise your right in such a way that it should not violate other person’s right.”
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act there shall be no obligation to give any citizen
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: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.
Scope of the section 8(1) (j):-
When someone is seeking information about himself he can’t be stopped by section 8 (1) (j) of the act but when a person seeks information about third party that would amount to the personal information and only then it can be called “Intrusion of privacy”.
“Intrusion of privacy” as defined by central information commission is “one when someone intentionally intrudes physically or otherwise upon the solitude or seclusion of another or his private affairs or concerns is subject to liability to other for invasion of his privacy if the intrusion would be highly offensive to reasonable person.”
It must not be thought that personal information becomes public as soon as it goes in the domain of public authority and it is also the duty of public authority that it should not allow personal information to go in the hands of those who can use it for mischief, harassment, intimidation and worse.
Personal information does not mean information about information seeker but about third party. When someone seeks information about himself question of intrusion of privacy does not arise.
Lacuna in the section:-
The lacuna in the section 8(1) (j) is use of wide open term “Personal Information” which is being interpreted openly by one person to another for defending their interest .No public authority can deny the information with mala fide intent and at the same time domains of private and public information must not be breached.
It is however very difficult to strike a balance between right to privacy and right to know because one cannot be set aside as both forms the basic structure of the constitution.
What can be done:-Right to information act 2005 section 8(1)(j) is in urgent need of amendment as it does not categorize what falls under “personal information” and what does not. Need of the hour is to define the term “Personal Information” so that whenever this type of problem comes in a court, judges should give weightage to the statue rather than their own interpretation of term “Personal Information” . It is expected from concerned PIO that term should be made more confirmative and definite, so that problems arising under this section can be solved easily. This can be done by following common law principle of adherence to case laws.
A Landmark Judgment Which will set New Legal Principle:-
The CPIO, Supreme court of India vs. Subhash Chandra agrawal And Anr W.P (c) 288/2009 decided on 02/09/2009
In this case Subhash Chandra Agrawal sought information relating to the declaration of assets by the Hon’ble Judges of Supreme court as well as the chief justice of the state high courts. The Delhi high court gave judgment in favor of applicant and ordered the first petitioner CPIO shall release the information sought by subhash Chandra agrawal about the declaration made by Judges of supreme court of their assets within four weeks.
When this matter went to Supreme Court, court held that “The case on hand raises important questions of constitutional importance relating to the position of Hon’ble CJI under the constitution and independence of judiciary in the scheme of the constitution on the one hand and on the other of Fundamental right of speech and expression. Right To Information is an integral part of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by constitution and now supreme court has referred this case to constitution bench.
Faith in the democratic form of government rests on the old dictum, “Let people have the truth and freedom to discuss it and all will go well.”
Men alone of all the creatures has been endowed with the power of reasoning which can germinate thoughts and as a necessary condition for self-fulfillment, he should have uninhibited right to express them with this expectation our founding fathers of constitution included right to freedom of speech and expression as fundamental right .In last 50 years we have done a fair job by having Freedom of Information act 2002, Right to information act 2005 but still there is need to strike a fine balance between one’s right to have information and other’s Right of privacy.
"A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives."- JAMES MADISON
# Preface to “RIGHT TO INFORMATION LAW AND PRACTICE” by Dr. Madabhusi Sridhar Professor NALSAR Hyderabad.
# Rig-Veda (1-891)
# Right to Information act 2005 section 8(1)(j)
# Discussed in Lawyers Club of India dated 31/05/2011
# Laid down in Shri Rakesh Kumar Singh vs. Loksabha secretariat CIC/WB/A/2006/
# 2011 3 AWC2405SC
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