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A Division Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court earlier this month held that a wife is entitled to know her husband’s salary for the purposes of ascertaining maintenance.
The Bench of Justices SK Seth and Nandita Dubey was dealing with a writ appeal filed by a non-practicing advocate in a maintenance case. The appellant wife, who is estranged from her husband, had filed an application under Section 91 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) along with her maintenance application.
The application under the CrPC sought directions to her estranged husband, to furnish copies of his pay slip so as to aid in the determination of reasonable maintenance.
With a view to determining the same, the wife had filed an RTI application asking for details of his remuneration. The husband was a high-ranking employee of the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL).
The RTI application, which was filed in 2005, was initially rejected and eventually made its way to the Central Information Commission (CIC), which ordered the Central Public Information Officer, BSNL to provide the details sought for.
The CIC order was challenged by both the respondent husband and BSNL, on the ground that they had not been heard. This petition was allowed and they were given an opportunity to be heard, after which the CIC once again ordered that the husband’s salary details be furnished.
This order was once again challenged before a single judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, which allowed the same.
The Division Bench before which the appeal was argued, observed that there were two matters to be considered. The first was whether Section 4(1)(b)(x), which obliges the public authorities to display on public domain the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees, applies to the husband and BSNL.
The second question was whether the information sought for was exempt under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, which provides that if the information has no relationship to any public activity and results in a violation of privacy, it need not be provided.
The Bench ultimately held that a wife was entitled to know her husband’s salary, and disclosure of the same did not amount to a violation of his privacy.
“While dealing with the Section 8(1)(j) of the Act, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the appellant and the respondent No.1 are husband and wife and as a wife she is entitled to know what remuneration the respondent No.1 is getting.”
It had been earlier argued by the appellant’s counsel KC Ghildiyal that the wife had been receiving a monthly maintenance of Rs 7000, which was not commensurate to the monthly salary of the husband, which alleged to be in excess of rupees two lakh.
Read the order