Authorities cannot compel disclosure of personal information in the absence of a larger public interest which justifies its disclosure

Delhi High Court: While considering the petition which sought to quash the order passed by the Central Information Commission(CIC) for disclosure of personal information without public interest being involved, the Single Bench of Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. held that personal information cannot be demanded by the Chief Information Commission or other authorities, unless the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.

In the present case, even though the information sought for by the respondent under the Right to Information Act, 2005 had been exempted by the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) and the first appellate authority from being disclosed on the grounds of it being personal information and there being no public interest involved, the CIC directed the respondent to provide the information. This impugned order of the CIC was sought to be quashed.

The Court, relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central Information Commissioner, (2013) 1 SCC 212 in which it was held that copies of files, employees’ performance, details of assets, etc. fall within the domain of “personal information” and cannot be claimed as a matter of right, and deciding on the merits of the present case held that since no finding was returned by the CIC as to the justification of disclosure of the information in the public domain, the petitioner cannot be forced to furnish personal information. [Union of India v. Kishan Lal Meena, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 5901, decided on 08.11.2016]

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