White Paper on RTI and Privacy V1.2

Posted by Vipul Kharbanda at Nov 09, 2014 02:53 AM |
This white paper explores the relationship between privacy and transparency in the context of the right to information in India. Analysing pertinent case law and legislation - the paper highlights how the courts and the law in India address questions of transparency vs. privacy.

Introduction

Although the right to information is not specifically spelt out in the Constitution of India, 1950, it has been read into Articles 14 (right to equality), 19(1)(a) (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (right to life) through cases such as Bennet Coleman v. Union of India,[1] Tata Press Ltd. v. Maharashtra Telephone Nigam Ltd.,[2] etc. The same Articles of the Constitution were also interpreted in Kharak Singh v.State of U.P.,[3] Govind v. State of M.P., [4] and a number of other cases, to include within their scope a right to privacy. At the very outset it appears that a right to receive information -though achieving greater transparency in public life - could impinge on the right to privacy of certain people. The presumed tension between the right to privacy and the right to information has been widely recognized and a framework towards balancing the two rights, has been widely discussed across jurisdictions. In India, nowhere is this conflict and the attempt to balance it more evident than under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (the "RTI Act").

Supporting the constitutional right to information enjoyed by the citizens, is the statutorily recognized right to information granted under the RTI Act. Any potential infringement of the right to privacy by the provisions of the RTI Act are sought to be balanced by section 8 which provides that no information should be disclosed if it creates an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of any individual. This exception states that there is no obligation to disclose 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 larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information. [5] The Act further goes on to say that where any information relating to or supplied by a third party and treated by that party as confidential, is to be disclosed, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer has to give written notice to that party within five days of receiving such a request inviting such third party (within ten days) to make its case as to whether such information should or should not be disclosed.[6]

A plain reading of section 11 suggests that for the section to apply the following three conditions have to be satisfied, i.e. (i) if the PIO is considering disclosing the information (ii) the information relates to the third party or was given to a Public Authority by the third party in confidence; and (iii) the third party treated the information to be a confidential. It has been held that in order to satisfy the third part of the test stated above, the third party has to be consulted and therefore a notice has to be sent to the third party. Even if the third party claims confidentiality, the proviso to the section provides that the information cannot be withheld if the public interest in the disclosure outweighs the possible harm or injury that may be caused to the third party, except in cases of trade or commercial secrets.[7] The Courts have also held that section 11 should be read keeping in mind the exceptions contained in section 8 (discussed in detail later) and the exceptions contained therein. [8]

This principle of non disclosure of private information can be found across a number of common law jurisdictions. The United Kingdom's Freedom of Information Act, 2000 exempts the disclosure of information where it would violate the data protection principles contained in the Data Protection Act, 1998 or constitute an actionable breach of confidence.[9] The Australian Freedom of Information Act, 1982 categorizes documents involving unreasonable disclosure of personal information as conditionally exempt i.e. allows for their disclosure unless such disclosure would be contrary to public interest.[10] The Canadian Access to Information Act also has a provision which allows the authorities to refuse to disclose personal information except in accordance with the provisions of the Canadian Privacy Act. [11]

An overview of the RTI Act, especially sections 6 to 8 seems to give the impression that the legislature has tried to balance and harmonize conflicting public and private rights and interests by building sufficient safeguards and exceptions to the general principles of disclosure under the Act. [12] This is why it is generally suggested that section 8, when applied, should be given a strict interpretation as it is a fetter on not only a statutory right granted under the RTI Act but also a pre-existing constitutional right. [13] Logical as this argument may seem and appropriate in some circumstances, it does present a problem when dealing with the privacy exception contained in section 8(1)(j). That is because the right to privacy envisaged in this section is also a pre-existing constitutional right which has been traced to the same provisions of the Constitution from which the constitutional right of freedom of information emanates.[14] Therefore there is an ambiguity regarding the treatment and priority given to the privacy exception vs. the disclosure mandate in the RTI Act, as it requires the balancing of not only two competing statutory rights but also two constitutional rights.

The Privacy Exception

As discussed earlier, the purpose of the RTI Act is to increase transparency and ensure that people have access to as much public information as possible. Such a right is critical in a democratic country as it allows for accountability of the State and allows individuals to seek out information and make informed decisions. However, it seems from the language of the RTI Act that at the time of its drafting the legislature did realize that there would be a conflict between the endeavor to provide information and the right to privacy of individuals over the information kept with public authorities, which is why a privacy exception was carved into section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act. The Act does not only protect the privacy of the third party who's information is at risk of being disclosed, but also the privacy of the applicant. In fact it has now been held that a private respondent need not give his/her ID or address as long as the information provided by him/her is sufficient to contact him/her.[15]

It is interesting to note that although the RTI Act gives every citizen a right to information, it does not limit this right with a stipulation as to how the information shall be used by the applicant or the reason for which the applicant wants such information. [16] This lack of a purpose limitation in the Act may have privacy implications as non sensitive personal information could be sought from different sources and processed by any person so as to convert such non-sensitive or anonymous information into identifiable information which could directly impact the privacy of individuals.

The exception in S. 8(1)(j) prohibits the disclosure of personal information for two reasons (i) its disclosure does not relate to any public activity or interest or (ii) it would be an unwarranted invasion into privacy. The above two conditions however get trumped if a larger public interest is satisfied by the disclosure of such information.

One interesting thing about the exception contained in section 8(1)(j) is that this exception itself has an exception to it in the form of a proviso. The proviso says that any information which cannot be denied to the central or state legislature shall not be denied to any person. Since the proviso has been placed at the end of sub-section 8(1) which is also the end of clause 8(1)(j), one might be tempted to ask whether this proviso applies only to the privacy exception i.e. clause 8(1)(j) or to the entire sub-section 8(1) (which includes other exceptions such as national interest, etc.). This issue was put to rest by the Bombay High Court when it held that since the proviso has been put only after clause 8(1)(j) and not before each and every clause, it would not apply to the entire sub-section 8(1) but only to clause 8(1)(j), thus ensuring that the exceptions to disclosure other than the right to privacy are not restricted by this proviso.[17]

Scope of Proviso to section 8(1)(j)
Though the courts have agreed that the proviso is applicable only to section 8(1)(j), the import of the proviso to section 8(1)(j) is a little more ambiguous and there are conflicting decisions by different High Courts on this point. Whereas the Bombay High Court has laid emphasis on the letter of the proviso and derived strength from the objects and overall scheme of the Act to water down the provisions of section 8(1)(j), [18] the Delhi High Court has disagreed with such an approach which gives "undue, even overwhelming deference" to Parliamentary privilege in seeking information. Such an approach would render the protection under section 8(1)j) meaningless, and the basic safeguard bereft of content.[19] In the words of the Delhi High Court:

" The proviso has to be only as confined to what it enacts, to the class of information that Parliament can ordinarily seek; if it were held that all information relating to all public servants, even private information, can be accessed by Parliament, Section 8(1)(j) would be devoid of any substance, because the provision makes no distinction between public and private information. Moreover there is no law which enables Parliament to demand all such information; it has to be necessarily in the context of some matter, or investigation. If the reasoning of the Bombay High Court were to be accepted, there would be nothing left of the right to privacy, elevated to the status of a fundamental right, by several judgments of the Supreme Court. "

The interpretation given by the Delhi High Court thus ensures that section 8(1)(j) still has some effect, as otherwise the privacy exception would have gotten steamrolled by parliamentary privilege and all sorts of information such as Income Tax Returns, etc. of both private and public individuals would have been liable to disclosure under the RTI Act.

Unfortunately, the RTI Act does not describe the terms "personal information" or "larger public interest" used in section 8(1)(j), which leaves some amount of ambiguity in interpreting the privacy exception to the RTI Act. Therefore the only option for anyone to understand these terms in greater depth is to discuss and analyse the case laws developed by the Hon'ble Supreme Court and the High Courts which have tried to throw some light on this issue.

We shall discuss some of these landmark judgments to understand the interpretations given to these terms and then move on to specific instances where (applying these principles) information has been disclosed or denied.

Personal Information
The RTI Act defines the term information but does not define the term "personal information". Therefore one has to rely on judicial pronouncements to understand the term a more clearly. Looking at the common understanding and dictionary meaning of "personal" as well as the definition of "information" contained in the RTI Act it could be said that personal information would be information, information that pertains to a person and as such it takes into its fold possibly every kind of information relating to the person. Now, such personal information of the person may, or may not, have relation to any public activity, or to public interest. At the same time, such personal information may, or may not, be private to the person. [20]

The Delhi High Court has tried to draw a distinction between the term "private information" which encompasses the personal intimacies of the home, the family, marriage, motherhood, procreation, child rearing and of the like nature and "personal information" which would be any information that pertains to an individual. This would logically imply that all private information would be part of personal information but not the other way round. [21] The term 'personal information' has in other cases, been variously described as "identity particulars of public servants, i.e. details such as their dates of birth, personal identification numbers",[22] and as including tax returns, medical records etc.[23] It is worth noting that just because the term used is "personal information" does not mean that the information always has to relate to an actual person, but may even be a juristic entity such as a trust or corporation, etc.[24]

Larger Public Interest
The term larger public interest has not been discussed or defined in the RTI Act, however the Courts have developed some tests to determine if in a given situation, personal information should be disclosed in the larger public interest.

Whenever a Public Information Officer is asked for personal information about any person, it has to balance the competing claims of the privacy of the third party on the one hand and claim of public interest on the other and determine whether the public interest in such a disclosure satisfies violating a person's privacy. The expression "public interest" is not capable of a precise definition and does not have a rigid meaning. It is therefore an elastic term and takes its colors from the statute in which it occurs, the concept varying with the time and the state of the society and its needs. This seems to be the reason why the legislature and even the Courts have shied away from a precise definition of "public interest". However, the term public interest does not mean something that is merely interesting or satisfies the curiosity or love of information or amusement; but something in which a class of the community have some interest by which their rights or liabilities are affected.[25]

There have been suggestions that the use of the word "larger" before the term "public interest" denotes that the public interest involved should serve a large section of the society and not just a small section of it, i.e. if the information has a bearing on the economy, the moral values in the society; the environment; national safety, or the like, the same would qualify as "larger public interest".[26] However this is not a very well supported theory and the usage of the term "larger public interest" cannot be given such a narrow meaning, for example what if the disclosure of the information could save the lives of only 10 people or even just 5 children? Would the information not be released just because it violates one person's right to privacy and there is not a significant number of lives at stake? This does not seem to be what all the cases on the right to privacy, right from Kharak Singh[27] all the way to Naz Foundation, [28] seem to suggest. Infact, in the very same judgment where the above interpretation has been suggested, the Court undermines this argument by giving the example of a person with a previous crime of sexual assault being employed in an orphanage and says that the interest of the small group of children in the orphanage would outweigh the privacy concerns of the individual thus requiring disclosure of all information regarding the employee's past.

In light of the above understanding of section 8(1)(j), there seem to be two different tests that have been proposed by the Courts, which seem to connote the same principle although in different words:

1. The test laid down by Union Public Service Commission v. R.K. Jain:

(i) The information sought must relate to „Personal information‟ as understood above of a third party. Therefore, if the information sought does not qualify as personal information, the exemption would not apply;

(ii) Such personal information should relate to a third person, i.e., a person other than the information seeker or the public authority; AND

(iii) (a) The information sought should not have a relation to any public activity qua such third person, or to public interest. If the information sought relates to public activity of the third party, i.e. to his activities falling within the public domain, the exemption would not apply. Similarly, if the disclosure of the personal information is found justified in public interest, the exemption would be lifted, otherwise not; OR (b) The disclosure of the information would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual, and that there is no larger public interest involved in such disclosure. [29]

2. The other test was laid down in Vijay Prakash v. Union of India, but in the specific circumstances of disclosure of personal information relating to a public official:

(i) whether the information is deemed to comprise the individual's private details, unrelated to his position in the organization;

(ii) whether the disclosure of the personal information is with the aim of providing knowledge of the proper performance of the duties and tasks assigned to the public servant in any specific case; and

(iii) whether the disclosure will furnish any information required to establish accountability or transparency in the use of public resources. [30]

Constitutional Restrictions
Since there is not extensive academic discussion on the meaning of the term "larger public interest" or "public interest" as provided in section 8(1)(j), one is forced to turn to other sources to get a better idea of these terms. One such source is constitutional law, since the right to privacy, as contained in section 8(1)(j) has its origins in Articles 14,[31] 19(1)(a) [32] and 21[33] of the Constitution of India. The constitutional right to privacy in India is also not an absolute right and various cases have carved out a number of exceptions to privacy, a perusal of which may give some indication as to what may be considered as 'larger public interest', these restrictions are:

a) Reasonable restrictions can be imposed on the right to privacy in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence; [34]

b) Reasonable restrictions can be imposed upon the right to privacy either in the interests of the general public or for the protection of the interests of any Scheduled Tribe;[35]

c) The right to privacy can be restricted by procedure established by law which procedure would have to satisfy the test laid down in the Maneka Gandhi case.[36]

d) The right can be restricted if there is an important countervailing interest which is superior; [37]

e) It can be restricted if there is a compelling state interest to be served by doing so; [38]

f) It can be restricted in case there is a compelling public interest to be served by doing so; [39]

g) The Rajagopal tests - This case lays down three exceptions to the rule that a person's private information cannot be published, viz. i) person voluntarily thrusts himself into controversy or voluntarily raises or invites a controversy, ii) if publication is based on public records other than for sexual assault, kidnap and abduction, iii) there is no right to privacy for public officials with respect to their acts and conduct relevant to the discharge of their official duties. It must be noted that although the Court talks about public records, it does not use the term 'public domain' and thus it is possible that even if a document has been leaked in the public domain and is freely available, if it is not a matter of public record, the right to privacy can still be claimed in regard to it.[40]

Section 8(1)(j) in Practice

The discussion in the previous chapter regarding the interpretation of section 8(1)(j), though (hopefully) helpful still seems a little abstract without specific instances and illustrations to drive home the point. In this chapter we shall endeavor to briefly discuss some specific cases regarding information disclosure where the issue of violation of privacy of a third party was raised.

Private Information of Public Officials
Some of the most common problems regarding section 8(1)(j) come up when discussing information (personal or otherwise) regarding public officers. The issue comes up because an argument can be made that certain information such as income tax details, financial details, medical records, etc. of public officials should be disclosed since it has a bearing on their public activities and disclosure of such information in case of crooked officers would serve the interests of transparency and cleaner government (hence serving a larger public interest). Although section 8(1)(j) does not make any distinction between a private person and a public servant, a distinction in the way their personal information is treated does appear in reality due to the inherent nature of a public servant. Infact it has sometimes been argued that public servants must waive the right to privacy in favour of transparency.[41] However this argument has been repeatedly rejected by the Courts, [42] just because a person assumes public office does not mean that he/she would automatically lose their right to privacy in favour of transparency.

If personal information regarding a public servant is asked for, then a distinction must be made between the information that is inherently personal to the person and that which has a connection with his/her public functions. The information exempted under section 8(1)(j) is personal information which is so intimately private in nature that the disclosure of the same would not benefit any other person, but would result in the invasion of the privacy of the third party.[43] In short, the Courts have concluded that there can be no blanket rule regarding what information can and cannot be disclosed when it comes to a public servant, and the disclosure (or lack of it) would depend upon the circumstances of each case.

Although the earlier thinking of the CIC as well as various High Courts of the country was that information regarding disciplinary proceedings and service records of public officials is to be treated as public information in order to boost transparency,[44] however this line of thinking took almost a U-turn in 2012 after the decision of the Supreme Court in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central Information Commissioner,[45] and now the prevailing principle is that such information is personal information and should not be disclosed unless a larger public interest is would be served by the disclosure.

It would also be helpful to look at a list of the type of information regarding public servants which has been disclosed in the past, gleaned from various cases, to get a better understanding of the prevailing trends in such cases:

(i) Details of postings of public servants at various points of time, since this was not considered as personal information; [46]

(ii) Copies of posting/ transfer orders of public servants, since it was not considered personal information; [47]

(iii) Information regarding transfers of colleagues cannot be exempted from disclosure, since disclosure would not cause any unwarranted invasion of privacy and non disclosure would defeat the object of the RTI Act;[48]

(iv) Information regarding the criteria adopted and the marks allotted to various academic qualifications, experience and interview in selection process for government posts by the state Public Service Commission;[49]

(v) Information regarding marks obtained in written test, interview, annual confidential reports of the applicant as well as the marks in the written test and interview of the last candidate selected, since this information was not considered as personal information; [50]

(vi) Information relating to the appointment and educational certificates of teachers in an educational institution (which satisfies the requirements of being a public authority) was disclosed since this was considered as relevant to them performing their functions. [51]

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. To understand this better below is a brief list of the type of information that has been considered by the Courts as personal information which is liable to be exempt from disclosure under section 8(1)(j):

(i) (a) Salary details, (b) show cause notice, memo and censure, (c) return of assets and liabilities, (d) details of investment and other related details, (e) details of gifts accepted, (f) complete enquiry proceedings, (g) details of income tax returns;[52]

(ii) All memos issued, show cause notices and orders of censure/punishment etc. are personal information. Cannot be revealed unless a larger public interest justifies such disclosure;[53]

(iii) Disciplinary information of an employee is personal information and is exempt under section 8(1)(j); [54]

(iv) Medical records cannot be disclosed due to section 8(1)(j) as they come under "personal information", unless a larger public interest can be shown meriting such disclosure;[55]

(v) Copy of personnel records and service book (containing Annual Confidential Reports, etc.) of a public servant is personal information and cannot be disclosed due to section 8(1)(j);[56]

(vi) Information regarding sexual disorder, DNA test between an officer and his surrogate mother, name of his biological father and step father, name of his mother and surrogate step mother and such other aspects were denied by the Courts as such information was considered beyond the perception of decency and was an invasion into another man's privacy.[57]

It is not just the issue of disclosure of personal details of public officials that raises complicated questions regarding the right to information, but the opposite is equally true, i.e. what about seemingly "public" details of private individuals. A very complicated question arose with regard to information relating to the passport details of private individuals.

Passport Information of Private Individuals
The disclosure of passport details of private individuals is complicated because for a long time there was some confusion because of the treatment to be given to passport details, i.e. would its disclosure cause an invasion of privacy since it contains personally identifying information, specially because photocopies of the passport are regularly given for various purposes such as travelling, getting a new phone connection, etc. The Central Information Commission used a somewhat convoluted logic that since a person providing information relating to his residence and identity while applying for a passport was engaging in a public activity therefore such information relates to a public activity and should be disclosed. This view was rejected by the Delhi High Court in the case of Union of India v. Hardev Singh,[58] and the view taken inHardev Singh was later endorsed and relied upon in Union of India v. Rajesh Bhatia, [59] while hearing a number of petitions to decide what details of a third party's passport should be disclosed and what should be exempt from disclosure.

A list of the Courts conclusions is given below:

Information that can be revealed:

(i) Name of passport holder;

(ii) Whether a visa was issued to a third party or not;

(iii) Details of the passport including dates of first issue, subsequent renewals, dates of application for renewals, numbers of the new passports and date of expiry;

(iv) Nature of documents submitted as proof;

(v) Name of police station from where verification for passport was done;

(vi) Whether any report was called for from the jurisdictional police;

(vii) Whether passport was renewed through an agent or through a foreign embassy;

(viii) Whether it was renewed in India or any foreign country;

(ix) Whether tatkal facility was availed by the passport holder;

Information that cannot be revealed:

(i) Contents of the documents submitted with the passport application;

(ii) Marital status and name and address of husband;

(iii) Whether person's name figures as mother/guardian in the passport of any minor;

(iv) Copy of passport application form;

(v) Residential address of passport holder;

(vi) Details of cases filed/pending against passport holder;

(vii) Copy of old passport;

(viii) Report of the police and CID for issuing the passport;

(ix) Copy of the Verification Certificate, if any such Verification Certificate was relied upon for the issue of the passport.

Other Instances

Apart from the above two broad categories of information that has been the subject of intense judicial discussion, certain other situations have also arisen where the Courts have had to decide the issue of disclosure under section 8(1)(j), a brief summary of such situations is given below:

(i) names and details of people who received money as donations from the President out of public funds was considered as information which has a definite link to public activities and was therefore liable to be disclosed;[60]

(ii) information regarding the religion practiced by a person, who is alleged to be a public figure, collected by the Census authorities was not disclosed since it was held that the quest to obtain the information about the religion professed or not professed by a citizen cannot be in any event; [61]

(iii) information regarding all FIRs against a person was not protected under section 8(1)(j) since it was already a matter of public record and Court record and could not be said to be an invasion of the person's privacy;[62]

(iv) information regarding the income tax returns of a public charitable trust was held not to be exempt under section 8(1)(j), since the trust involved was a public charitable trust functioning under a Scheme formulated by the District Court and registered under the Bombay Public Trust Act as such due to its character and activities its tax returns would be in relation to public interest or activities.[63]

Conclusion

A discussion of the provisions of section 8 and 11 of the RTI Act as well as the case laws under it reveals that the legislature was aware of the dangers posed to the privacy of individuals from such a powerful transparency law. However, it did not want the exceptions carved out to protect the privacy of individuals to nullify the objects of the RTI Act and therefore drafted the legislation to incorporate the principle that although the RTI Act should not be used to violate the privacy of individuals, such an exception will not be applicable if a larger public interest is to be served by the disclosure. This principle is in line with other common law jurisdictions such as the U.K, Austalia, Canada, etc. which have similar exceptions based on privacy or confidentiality.

However it is disappointing to note that the legislature has only left the legislation at the stage of the principle which has left the language of the exception very wide and open to varied interpretations. It is understandable that the legislature would try to keep specifics out of the scope of the section to make it future proof. It is obvious that it would be impossible for the legislature or the courts to imagine every single circumstance that could arise where the right to information and the right to privacy would be at loggerheads. However, such wide and ambiguous drafting has led to cases where the Courts and the Central Information Commission have taken opposing views, with the views of the Court obviously prevailing in the end. This was illustrated by the issue of disclosure of passport details of private individuals with a large number of CIC cases taking different views till the High Court of Delhi gave categorical findings on the issue in the Hardev Singh and Rajesh Bhatia cases. Similar was the issue of service details of public officials since before the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Girish Ramchandra Deshpande in 2012 the prevailing thinking of the CIC was that details of disciplinary proceedings against public officials are not covered by section 8(1)(j), however this thinking has now taken a U-turn as the Supreme Court's understanding of the right to privacy has taken stronger roots and such information is now outside the scope of the RTI Act, unless a larger public interest in the disclosure can be shown.

The ambiguity that arises in application when trying to balance the right to privacy against the right to information is a drawback in incorporating only a principle and leaving the language ambiguous in any legislation. This paper does not advocate that the legislature try to list out all the instances of this problem that are possibly imaginable, this would be too time consuming and may even be counterproductive. However, it is possible for the legislature to adopt an accepted practice of legislative drafting and list certain instances where there is an obvious balancing required between the two rights and put them as "Illustrations" to the section. This device has been utilised to great effect by some of the most fundamental legislations in India such as the Contract Act, 1872 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860. An alternative to this approach could be to utilize the approach taken in the Australian Freedom of Information Act, where the Act itself gives certain factors which should be considered to determine whether access to a particular document would be in the public interest or not.

List of References

Primary Sources

1. Australia Freedom of Information Act, 1982.

2. Bennet Coleman v. Union of India, AIR 1973 SC 106.

3. Bhagat Singh v. Chief Information Commissioner, 2008 (64) AIC 284 (Del).

4. Calcutta High Court, WP (W) No. 33290 of 2013, dated 20-11-2013.

5. Canadian Access to Information Act.

6. Canara Bank v. Chief Information Commissioner, 2007 (58) AIC Ker 667

7. Constitution of India, 1950.

8. Govind v. State of M.P., Supreme Court of India, WP No. 72 of 1970, dated 18-03-1975.

9. Haryana Public Service Commission v. State Information Commission, AIR 2009 P & H 14.

10. Jamia Millia Islamia v. Sh. Ikramuddin, Delhi High Court, WP(C) 5677 of 2011 dated 22-11-2011.

11. Jitendra Singh v. State of U.P., 2008 (66) AIC 685 (All).

12. Kharak Singh v. State of U.P., AIR 1963 SC 129.

13. Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, Supreme Court of India, WP No. 231 of 1977, dated 25-01-1978.

14. Naz Foundation Delhi High Court, WP(C) No.7455/2001 dated 02-07-2009.

15. P.C. Wadhwa v. Central Information Commission, Punjab and Haryana High Court, LPA No. 1252 of 2009 dated 29-11-2010.

16. Paardarshita Public Welfare Foundation v. Union of India and others, AIR 2011 Del 82.

17. President's Secretariat v. Nitish Kumar Tripathi, Delhi High Court, WP (C) 3382 of 2012, dated 14-06-2012.

18. Public Information Officer v. Andhra Pradesh Information Commission,2009 (76) AIC 854 (AP).

19. R. Rajagopal v. Union of India, Supreme Court of India, dated 7-10-1994.

20. Rajendra Vasantlal Shah v. Central Information Commissioner, New Delhi, AIR 2011 Guj 70.

21. Rajinder Jaina v. Central Information Commission, 2010 (86) AIC 510 (Del. H.C.).

22. Right to Information Act, 2005

23. Secretary General, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra, Delhi High Court - Full Bench, LPA No.501/2009, dated 12-01-2010.

24. Srikant Pandaya v. State of M.P., AIR 2011 MP 14.

25. Surendra Singh v. State of U.P, AIR 2009 Alld. 106.

26. Surup Singh Hyra Naik v. State of Maharashtra, 2007 (58) AIC 739 (Bom).

27. Tata Press Ltd. v. Maharashtra Telephone Nigam Ltd., (1995) 5 SCC 139.

28. U.K. Freedom of Information Act, 2000.

29. UCO Bank v. Central Information Commissioner and another, 2009 (79) AIC 545 (P&H).

30. Union Centre for Earth Science Studies v. Anson Sebastian, AIR 2010 Ker. 151

31. Union of India v. Hardev Singh WP(C) 3444 of 2012 dated 23-08-2013.

32. Union of India v. Rajesh Bhatia WP(C) 2232/2012 dated 17-09-2013.

33. Union Public Service Commission v. R.K. Jain, Delhi High Court W.P.(C) 1243/2011 & C.M. No. 2618/2011 ( for stay), dated 13-07-2012.

34. Vijay Prakash v. Union of India, 2009 (82) AIC 583 (Del).

Secondary Sources

1. "Country Report for U.K.", Privacy International, available at https://www.privacyinternational.org/reports/united-kingdom.

2. "Country Report for Australia", Privacy International, available at https://www.privacyinternational.org/reports/australia.

3. "Country Report for Canada", Privacy International, available at https://www.privacyinternational.org/reports/canada.


[1] AIR 1973 SC 106. This case held that the freedom of the press embodies in itself the right of the people to read.

[2] (1995) 5 SCC 139.

[3] AIR 1963 SC 129.

[4] Supreme Court of India, WP No. 72 of 1970, dated 18-03-1975.

[5] Section 8(1) in its entirety states as follows:

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

(a) information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence;

(b) information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court;

(c) information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;

(d) information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;

(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;

(f) information received in confidence from foreign Government;

(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;

(h) information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;

(i) cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers:

Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over:

Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed;

(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:

Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.

[6] Section 11 of the RTI Act.

[7] The Registrar General v. A. Kanagaraj, (Madras High Court, 14 June 2013, available at http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/36226888/.

[8] Arvind Kejriwal v. Central Public Information Officer, (Delhi High Court, 30 September 2011, available at http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/1923225/.

[9] Sections 40 and 41 of the U.K. Freedom of Information Act, 2000.

[10] Section 11A read with section 47-F of the Australia Freedom of Information Act, 1982.

[11] Section 19 of the Canadian Access to Information Act.

[12] Public Information Officer v. Andhra Pradesh Information Commission,2009 (76) AIC 854 (AP).

[13] Bhagat Singh v. Chief Information Commissioner, 2008 (64) AIC 284 (Del).

[14] Articles 14, 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950.

[15] Calcutta High Court, WP(W) No. 33290 of 2013, dated 20-11-2013.

[16] Jitendra Singh v. State of U.P., 2008 (66) AIC 685 (All).

[17] Surup Singh Hyra Naik v. State of Maharashtra, 2007 (58) AIC 739 (Bom).

[18] Surup Singh Hyra Naik v. State of Maharashtra, 2007 (58) AIC 739 (Bom), para 14. Where the Court held that since the medical records of a convict cannot be denied to Parliament or State legislature therefore they cannot be exempted from disclosure under the Act.

[19] Vijay Prakash v. Union of India, 2009 (82) AIC 583 (Del).

[20] Union Public Service Commission v. R.K. Jain, Delhi High Court W.P.(C) 1243/2011 & C.M. No. 2618/2011 ( for stay), dated 13-07-2012.

[21] Union Public Service Commission v. R.K. Jain, Delhi High Court W.P.(C) 1243/2011 & C.M. No. 2618/2011 ( for stay), dated 13-07-2012.

[22] Vijay Prakash v. Union of India, 2009 (82) AIC 583 (Del).

[23] Secretary General, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra, Delhi High Court - Full Bench, LPA No.501/2009, dated 12-01-2010.

[24] Jamia Millia Islamia v. Sh. Ikramuddin , Delhi High Court, WP(C) 5677 of 2011 dated 22-11-2011.

[25] Union Public Service Commission v. R.K. Jain, Delhi High Court W.P.(C) 1243/2011 & C.M. No. 2618/2011 ( for stay), dated 13-07-2012.

[26] Union Public Service Commission v. R.K. Jain, Delhi High Court W.P.(C) 1243/2011 & C.M. No. 2618/2011 ( for stay), dated 13-07-2012.

[27] AIR 1963 SC 129.

[28] Delhi High Court, WP(C) No.7455/2001 dated 02-07-2009.

[29] Union Public Service Commission v. R.K. Jain, Delhi High Court W.P.(C) 1243/2011 & C.M. No. 2618/2011 (for stay), dated 13-07-2012. This ruling was overturned by a Division Bench of the High Court relying upon a subsequent Supreme Court ruling, however, it could be argued that the Division Bench did not per se disagree with the discussion and the principles laid down in this case, but only the way they were applied.

[30] Vijay Prakash v. Union of India, 2009 (82) AIC 583 (Del).

[31] Right to equality.

[32] Freedom of speech and expression.

[33] Right to life.

[34] Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India, 1950.

[35] Article 19(5) of the Constitution of India, 1950.

[36] Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, Supreme Court of India, WP No. 231 of 1977, dated 25-01-1978. The test laid down in this case is universally considered to be that the procedure established by law which restricts the fundamental right should be just, fair and reasonable.

[37] Govind v. State of M.P., Supreme Court of India, WP No. 72 of 1970, dated 18-03-1975.

[38] Govind v. State of M.P., Supreme Court of India, WP No. 72 of 1970, dated 18-03-1975.

[39] Govind v. State of M.P., Supreme Court of India, WP No. 72 of 1970, dated 18-03-1975. However the Court later used phrases such as "reasonable restriction in public interest" and "reasonable restriction upon it for compelling interest of State" interchangeably which seems to suggest that the terms "compelling public interest" and "compelling state interest" used by the Court are being used synonymously and the Court does not draw any distinction between them. It is also important to note that the wider phrase "countervailing interest is shown to be superior" seems to suggest that it is possible, atleast in theory, to have other interests apart from public interest or state interest also which could trump the right to privacy.

[40] R. Rajagopal v. Union of India , Supreme Court of India, dated 7-10-1994. These tests have been listed as one group since they are all applicable in the specific context of publication of private information.

[41] Vijay Prakash v. Union of India, 2009 (82) AIC 583 (Del).

[42] Secretary General, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra, Delhi High Court - Full Bench, LPA No.501/2009, dated 12-01-2010. Also see Vijay Prakash v. Union of India, 2009 (82) AIC 583 (Del).

[43] Canara Bank v. Chief Information Commissioner, 2007 (58) AIC Ker 667. This case also held that information cannot be denied on the ground that it would be too voluminous.

[44] Union Centre for Earth Science Studies v. Anson Sebastian, AIR 2010 Ker. 151; Union Public Service Commission v. R.K. Jain, Delhi High Court W.P.(C) 1243/2011 & C.M. No. 2618/2011 (for stay), dated 13-07-2012

[45] 2012 (119) AIC 105 (SC).

[46] Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central Information Commissioner, 2012 (119) AIC 105 (SC).

[47] Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central Information Commissioner, 2012 (119) AIC 105 (SC).

[48] Canara Bank v. Chief Information Commissioner, 2007 (58) AIC Ker 667.

[49] Haryana Public Service Commission v. State Information Commission, AIR 2009 P & H 14.

[50] UCO Bank v. Central Information Commissioner and another, 2009 (79) AIC 545 (P&H).

[51] Surendra Singh v. State of U.P, AIR 2009 Alld. 106.

[52] Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central Information Commissioner, 2012 (119) AIC 105 (SC).

[53] Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central Information Commissioner, 2012 (119) AIC 105 (SC).

[54] R.K. Jain v. Union Public Service Commission, Delhi High Court, LPA No. 618 of 2012, dated 12-11-2012.

[55] Secretary General, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra, Delhi High Court - Full Bench, LPA No.501/2009, dated 12-01-2010.

[56] Srikant Pandaya v. State of M.P., AIR 2011 MP 14.

[57] Paardarshita Public Welfare Foundation v. Union of India and others, AIR 2011 Del 82. It must be mentioned that this case was not exactly under the procedure prescribed under the RTI Act but was a public interest litigation although the courts relied upon the provisions of the RTI Act.

[58] WP(C) 3444 of 2012 dated 23-08-2013.

[59] WP(C) 2232/2012 dated 17-09-2013.

[60] President's Secretariat v. Nitish Kumar Tripathi, Delhi High Court, WP (C) 3382 of 2012, dated 14-06-2012.

[61] P.C. Wadhwa v. Central Information Commission, Punjab and Haryana High Court, LPA No. 1252 of 2009 dated 29-11-2010.

[62] Rajinder Jaina v. Central Information Commission, 2010 (86) AIC 510 (Del. H.C.).

[63] Rajendra Vasantlal Shah v. Central Information Commissioner, New Delhi, AIR 2011 Guj 70.

Document Actions