The Supreme Court has issued a notice in a petition raising an issue whether even disciplinary proceedings initiated and action taken against employees would fall under "personal information" as defined in Clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Food Corporation of India has assailed a Delhi High Court order which had held that such information cannot be hold as a personal information and such information deserves to be given to expose the corrupt person in the public.
While issuing notice, the bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Indira Banerjee also stayed operation of the directions contained in the impugned order to disclose the information is stayed.
The corporation had approached the High Court challenging the order of Central Information Commission which directed it to provide information as sought in an RTI application. The RTI applicant had sought personal information regarding some officer against whom the Corporation had issued charge-sheet and finally punished for the misconduct committed by the said officer.
Before the High Court also, the Corporation had banked on the judgment in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande Vs. Central Information Commissioner. In the said judgment, it was held that the details disclosed by a person in his income tax returns are "personal information" which stand exempted from disclosure under clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act, unless involves a larger public interest and the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.
While dismissing the writ petition, the single bench had observed that once a departmental inquiry into the complaint is held and they are punished, nothing remained information which is personal information but is information available to the public at large and, therefore, the same cannot be denied. It had observed: "The case relied upon by the petitioner is regarding the income-tax returns of individual which has been denied on the ground that the income tax returns are personal information which stand exempted from disclosure under clause 6 of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act, unless involves a larger publications and the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellant authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information. In the present case, the respondent No. 2 and similarly like-minded made various complaints to the petitioner herein and admittedly the number of cases initiated and the inquiry conducted against the various officers including the officer against whom the respondent No. 2 sought information for the reason to answer the public at large that on his complaint proper action has been taken by the petitioner against the corrupt officers. Since, the officer of the petitioner has already charge-sheeted, faced the Department Enquiry and finally punished, then what is the personal information with the petitioner and why the petitioner is not furnishing the details ask by the respondent No.2 herein."
Later, the Division bench of the High Court also upheld the single bench order.