IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY
NAGPUR BENCH, NAGPUR
WRIT PETITION No.1766 OF 2016
Rajesh Ramchandra Kidile, Aged about 52 years, Occupation : Service, R/o. Assistant Engineer, Minor Irrigation Chandrapur : PETITIONER
1. The Maharashtra State Information Commission Bench at Nagpur, 1st Floor, Administrative Building No.2, Civil Lines, Nagpur.
2. The Superintendent Engineer, Chandrapur Irrigation Project Circle, Chandrapur.
3. The Executive Engineer, Minor Irrigation Division, Chandrapur.
4. Adv. R.D. Sontakke, Imraipura, Datta Chowk, Yavatmal : RESPONDENTS
Shri J.R. Kidilay, Advocate for the Petitioner.
Shri R.D. Bhuibhar, Advocate for the Respondent No.1.
Shri K.D. Deshpande, Advocate for Respondent No.2 & 3.
Shri M.K. Kulkarni, Advocate for Respondent No.4.
CORAM : S.B. SHUKRE, J.
DATE : 22nd OCTOBER, 2018.
2. Rule. Rule made returnable forthwith.
3. Heard finally by consent.
4. Shri J.R. Kidilay, learned counsel for the petitioner submits that the information as sought for which is regarding supply of salary slips of the petitioner for the period from 1st April 2012 till 31st December 2014 relate to personal information of the petitioner and, therefore, as held by the Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of Girish Ramchandra Deshpande vs. Cen. Information Commr. and others, reported in AIR 2012 SC (Supp) 690, personal information cannot be disclosed under the provisions of the Right to Information Act (22 of 2005) (in short, “RTI Act”).
5. Shri R.D. Bhuibhar, learned counsel for the respondent No.1 submits that the salary of a public servant is an issue which lies in the public domain and, therefore, the information relating to it is accessible and as such the impugned order is correct.
6. Shri K.D. Deshpande, learned counsel for the respondent Nos.2 and 3 submits his argument on the similar lines as Shri R.D. Bhuibhar. He, however, also submits that the purpose of seeking information is bona fide and it cannot be overlooked by this Court. According to him, the application under the RTI Act was filed by the Advocate on behalf of his client, who is the estranged wife of the petitioner and who is fighting a legal battle against the petitioner claiming maintenance from him. Therefore, in this case, the information sought for could not be called as something relating to the personal information of the petitioner, rather, the information relates to the petitioner as well as his wife represented by the applicant’s Advocate.
7. I would have accepted the contention of the learned counsel for the respondent No.3 had the application been filed on behalf of his estranged wife of the petitioner. A plain reading of this application, a copy of which is available at Page 16, would show that the application has been filed in his own capacity by the Advocate and not on behalf of his client and so, the argument is rejected. It would be necessary now to consider the nature of information sought by this application.
8. Perusal of this application shows that the salary slips for the period mentioned in the application have been sought for by the Advocate. As rightly submitted by the learned counsel for the petitioner, the salary slips contain such details as deductions made from the salary, remittances made to the Bank by way of loan installments, remittances made to the Income Tax Authority towards part payment of the Income Tax for the concerned month and other details relating to contributions made to Provident Fund etc. It is here that the information contained in the salary slips would make the salary slips as having the characteristic of personal nature. Any information which discloses, as for example, remittances made to the Income Tax Department towards discharge of tax liability or to the Bank towards discharge of loan liability would constitute the personal information and would encroach upon the privacy of the person. Therefore, as held by the Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of Girish Ramchandra Deshpande (supra), such an information could not be disclosed under the provisions of the RTI Act. This is all the more so when the information seeker is a person who is totally stranger in blood or marital relationship to the person whose information he wants to lay his hands on. It would have been a different matter, had the information been sought by the wife of the petitioner in order to support her contention in a litigation, which she has filed against her husband. In a litigation, wherein the issue involved is of maintenance of wife, the information relating to salary details no longer remains confined to the category of personal information of the husband alone and it assumes the characteristic of personal information concerning both husband and wife, which is available with the husband and hence accessible by the wife. But, in the present case, as stated earlier, the application has not been filed by the wife.
9. Then, by the application filed under the provisions of the RTI Act, information regarding mere gross salary of the petitioner has not been sought and what have been sought are the details of the salary, such as amounts relating to gross salary, take home salary and also all the deductions from the gross salary. It is such nature of the information sought which takes the present case towards the category of exempted information.
10. All these aspects of the matter have not been considered by the authority below and, therefore, I find that its order is patently illegal, not sustainable in the eye of law.
11. The Writ Petition is allowed.
12. The impugned order is quashed and set aside.
13. The application filed under the Right to Information Act stands rejected.
14. Rule is made absolute in the above terms. No costs.