Records relating to rape victims directed to be disclosed

Central Information Commission (CIC): “The records relating to rape victims cannot be totally blocked from sharing for research purposes on the ground of personal information under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act,” noted CIC while directing the Delhi Commission for Women to make public records of rapes committed in Delhi but with strict conditions to ensure that identities of victims are not disclosed. Said order was pronounced by the Commission while hearing an appeal filed by RTI applicant who sought information on rape victims for research purpose. Earlier the applicant approached the Secretary of the Department for the required information, who after knowing the purpose, refused to furnish the records. It was submitted by Delhi Commission for Women that the information sought by the applicant cannot be furnished as it would involve infringing the right of privacy of the accused and the victim as it was not possible to separate the names of the victims from various documents including medico-legal case reports. After perusal of records, the Commission observed that, “When it is possible to separate information that can be given from that cannot be given; the PIO has to invoke doctrine of severability to facilitate the information.” While setting strict guidelines for disclosure of sensitive information, CIC directed, “Facilitate inspection of the records to the authorized female representative of the appellant (applicant) with an assurance that they shall not bring any electronic device like video records, mobile, camera etc, block out the names and personal details of the victim and accused by whitener on the Photostat copies.” It was also directed that each paper shall be verified by the officials of Delhi Women Commission to ensure that nowhere victims’ names and private details are revealed before certifying. In addition, appellant was directed to enter a non-disclosure agreement with an undertaking that he/his representative will not reveal information about the personal details of the victims and the accused and that they shall be responsible for any such revelation through the documents shared. The applicant was further warned by the Commission that any such disclosure would not only result in the breach of undertaking but also an offence under the Indian Penal Code. “It shall be responsibility of the respondent authority to secure records, and the appellant (applicant) shall share the copy of the research report with the Women’s Commission and this Commission,” the Commission added. (Baladevan Rangaraju v. Delhi Commission for Women, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 602, decided on March 3, 2015

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