RTI – 3rd Party Information

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

F.No. CIC/AT/A/2006/00014
Dated the 22nd May, 2006

Appellant: Shri K.K. Mahajan, House No. 436, P.O. Subathu (Himachal Pradesh)-173 206.
Respondents: Shri Pritpal Singh, Cantonment Ex. Officer & Appellate Authority,Dagshai, Himachal Pradesh -173210.
Mrs. Nirmal Chandel, Office Supdt., (CPIO), Office of the Cantt.Board, P.O. Dagshai (H.P.)-173210.

Shri K.K. Mahajan has filed this appeal against the order of the appellate authority, Shri Pritpal Singh, Cantt. Executive Officer, Dagshai who had upheld the order of the CPIO, Smt. Nirmal Chandel, rejecting the appellant’s request for certain information.

2. The facts of the case are as follows:
Vide his application dated 13.10.05, the appellant approached the CPIO, Smt.Nirmal Chandel, for information related to the departmental inquiry against one Shri Surjit Singh, Daftry, the CPIO treated information sought by the appellant as third-partyinformation under Section 11 of the RTI Act. She formally requested Shri Surjit Singh,the third party for his willingness to disclose the information sought by the appellant.
Shri Surjit Singh objected to the disclosure of this information, following which the CPIO rejected Shri K.K. Mahajan’s petition (order of the CPIO dated the 26th October,05). The appellate authority, Shri Pritpal Singh, Cantt. Executive Officer, in his order dated 14.12.05, upheld the rejection of the appellant’s petition by the CPIO.

3. Besides the above substantive point, the appellant has also questioned the appointment of the CPIO on grounds that she was only a ‘servant’ of the Cantt. Board and not an ‘officer’. The appellate authority rejected this contention.

4. The appellant and the CPIO as well as the appellate authority were present today for hearing. During arguments, the appellant stated that he would not like to press the point regarding the appointment of the CPIO. He was accordingly allowed to withdraw this part of the appeal.

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5. During arguments in the appeal it turned out that the appellant is seeking information regarding the conduct and disposal of the disciplinary proceedings against Shri Surjit Singh (third party) because it is the appellant’s apprehension that Shri Surjit Singh has been exonerated in a case in which the appellant has been punished, in spite of the facts, the witness and their depositions in the case being identical. From this angle,the information in the disciplinary proceedings against Shri Surjit Singh has a bearing on the case of the appellant.

6. We noticed that the appellate authority in this case has rejected the appellant’s plea on two grounds. Firstly, the appellate authority upheld that the information should not be disclosed since the third party, Shri Surjit Singh had objected to it and secondly,that matters relating to inquiries and departmental proceedings could not be disclosed.

7. The CPIO rejected the appellant’s case under Section 11 (1) of the RTI Act. The appellate authority did not mention the provision of the RTI Act against which the appellant’s request for information was tested. It is presumed that he was upholding the CPIO’s conclusion that the appellant’s request for information regarding Shri Surjit Singh’s disciplinary case was to be examined under Section 11(1) of the Act. Obviously,the implication of Section 8 (1) (j) for the appellant’s case has been examined neither by the CPIO nor the appellate authority.

8. It is important that the appellate authority applies his mind afresh to the circumstances of the appellant’s case as well as the objection of the third party, Shri Surjit Singh, in terms of both Section 11(1) and Section 8 (1)(j) of the RTI Act. The appellate authority will need to form a clear opinion about whether the case attracted the “privacy”

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provision of Section 8 (1) (j) or/and the ‘confidential entrustment’ provision of Section 11(1) of the RTI Act. This should be done by properly assessing the facts and the circumstances of the case. A speaking order should thereafter be passed. We need emphasize that the RTI Act does not give to an individual or a third party an automatic veto on disclosure of information pertaining to him which may be held by a public authority. The PIO and the appellate authority are required to examine the individual or a third party’s case in terms of the provision of Section 8 (1) (j) or Section 11(1) as the case may be and arrive at a finding. The appellate authority has erred in holding that a mere objection by a third party to disclosure of an information (when the information pertains to a third party) is enough reason to embargo the disclosure of such information. The Law requires application of the CPIO and the appellate authority’s minds regarding the pros and the cons of the proposed disclosure on the basis of the facts of each case in terms of the norms set out in Section 8 (1) (j) and Section 11 (1) of the RTI Act.

9. The case is remitted back to the appellate authority with the direction to issue fresh notices to the appellant and the third party and give a finding after examining all the aspects and circumstances of the case in terms of the two sections of the RTI Act which deal with third party information and personal information viz. Section 11 (1) and Section 8 (1) (j).

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10. With these directions, the appeal is disposed of.

(A.N. TIWARI) (PROF. M.M. ANSARI)
INFORMATION COMMISSIONER INFORMATION COMMISSIONER
Authenticated by –
(P.K. GERA)
REGISTRAR

Address of parties:
1. Shri K.K. Mahajan, House No. 436, P.O. Subathu, Himachal Pradesh-173206.
2. Shri Pritpal Singh, Cantonment Executive Officer & Appellate Authority,
Dagshai, Himachal Pradesh -173210.
3. Mrs. Nirmal Chandel, Office Supdt. & CPIO, Office of the Cantt. Board, P.O.
Dagshai, Himachal Pradesh-173 210.

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