An Applicant is not required to establish locus standi for seeking information permissible under the Act 2017. Furthermore, the Act 2017 specifically requires public bodies not to ask from the Applicant purpose for seeking information under its Section 11 (5).
This commission maintains that the requested information permissible under the Act, 2017 cannot be denied on the grounds of lis alibi pendens.
This commission has maintained through its different Orders that pendency of the writ petition between the parties does not bar the provision of information under the Act unless specifically barred by the court itself, or, under the provisions of the Act. Therefore, the contention of the Respondent that “Section 16 (i) (v) of the RAI Act, 2017, inter alia, states that the information may be exempted if its disclosure is likely to prejudice the proceedings in a court or a tribunal” does not hold water.
Our ability to exercise our fundamental right of access to information enables us to attain our other fundamental rights such as gainful employment, right to life, right to clean drinking water, right to breathe in in clean air and right to healthcare services etc. In fact, the constitutional right of access to information helps citizens in the exercise of right of access to justice as well by having access to records/information to effectively present their cases in the court of law.
This commission maintains that the disclosure of the requested information about the staff which was recruited from 2006 to 2008, their roles and responsibilities, who assigned responsibilities to this staff and written order to this effect is public information under the Section 5 of the Act 2017.
The Respondent has also invoked Section 7 (g), privacy clause of the Act, 2017 for denying access to information to the Appellant.
This commission has observed that public officials have limited understanding about right to privacy when juxtaposed with the right of access to information held by public bodies. Privacy/personal information is understood to be, broadly speaking, information/data pertaining to access control (username and/or password), financial information such as bank account, credit card, debit card, or other payment instruments, and, passports, biometric data, and physical, psychological, and mental health conditions, medical records, and any detail pertaining to an individual’s ethnicity, religious beliefs etc.
The Act, 2017 envisages a situation wherein a document, which should be otherwise be made public but its parts may contain private information. In such an eventuality, the part containing private information can be severed from the document as mentioned in Section 16 (1) (i) of the Act, 2017.