Delhi High Court
Delhi High Court
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In the absence of larger public interest, disclosure of personal information exempted under RTI Act: Delhi HC reiterates

The appellant had sought the attendance record of staff members of a school in Delhi.

Aditi Singh

The Delhi High Court has reiterated that in absence of any larger public interest, disclosure of personal information is exempted under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, as the same would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy under Section 8(1)(j) of the Act (Dr RS Gupta vs GNCTD).

The order was passed by a Division Bench of Justices Manmohan and Sanjeev Narula in an appeal preferred against the order of a Single Judge Bench.

The appellant had filed an RTI application with the Director of Education, Delhi government seeking information pertaining to Geeta Senior Secondary School, in Sultanpuri. He had sought information pertaining to his attendance record for the period between April 2015 and March 2017, and also the attendance record of the rest of the staff members serving in the same school.

While the copy of the attendance register pertaining to the appellant was provided to him, the record concerning the other staff members was declined on the ground that the information requested was exempted under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act.

Unsatisfied with the response received, the appellant filed an appeal under Section 7 of Delhi Right To Information Act before the Public Grievance Commission, the designated appellate authority under the Act, before eventually approaching the Delhi High Court.

The Single Judge dismissed the same, noting that the appellant had received his personal information and that there was no infirmity in the order refusing to furnish information pertaining to other staff members of the school.

In appeal, the appellant, who appeared in person, argued that the authority that decided the appeal was not empowered and authorized to do so. He argued that the officer concerned had no inherent power or specific authorization to act as an appellate authority.

It was further contended that the reply placed on record was absurd and did not, in any manner, justify the denial of information.

After considering the submissions made by the parties, the Court stated that except for making a bald assertion, the appellant had been unable to demonstrate how the officer who acted as the Appellate Authority could not do so.

The fact that respondent No.3 was declared as the Head of the Department for the Commission vide order dated 20th March, 2018, does not mean that authority to discharge the functions of the Appellate Authority stood conferred only from the said date by virtue of such appointment. Therefore, there is no merit in the contention of the appellant that the order dated 20th March, 2018 has been passed by an authority not competent to decide the appeal.”

Further, keeping in view the fact that it was not necessary for schools to send a copy of the attendance register of employees to the Department of Education, the Court added that the Department could not be compelled to furnish the information that is not available in the records not maintained by them.

As far as the information sought by the appellant as regards the other employees was concerned, the Court noted that it included the medical and personal information of the individuals, which would have no relationship to any public activity or public interest.

“The attendance record is part of service record which is a matter between the employee and the employer and ordinarily these aspects are governed by the service rules which fall under the expression “personal information”. The disclosure of this information ex-facie has no relationship to any public activity or public interest and pertinently, the appellant is not able to explain or show any nexus between the personal information sought and the public interest involved, for seeking its disclosure.”
Delhi High Court

The Court thus opined,

“Thus, in our view, in absence of even a remote connection with any larger public interest, disclosure of information would be exempted as the same would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual under section 8(1) (j) of the RTI Act. Petitioner has thus failed to establish that the information sought for is for any public interest, much less ‘larger public interest’.”

The Delhi government was represented by Additional Standing Counsel Gautam Narayan with Advocate Dacchita Shahi.

Read the Order:

Dr RS Gupta vs GNCTD.pdf
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