MP HC | Wife entitled to seek details of husband’s salary under RTI for determination of maintenance

Madhya Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of S.K. Seth and Nandita Dubey, JJ. contemplated a writ appeal filed by the appellant-wife of estranged marriage, the controversy involved in the present writ appeal is whether the information sought is exempt under Section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 or is covered by 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.

Minimal facts relevant for the proper appreciation of the appeal were the matrimonial dispute between the appellant and respondent was pending before the respective Court, while the appellant was getting maintenance from her husband as per the order of the court. The appellant filed an application under Section 91 CrPC, i.e. summons to produce document or thing which in this particular case was the pay slip of respondent for determination of proper maintenance amount. Such application was rejected by the trial Court. Aggrieved by the rejection Order, the appellant filed an RTI to seek salary details of the respondent, subsequently the same was rejected by the Authorities citing that the respondent is an Officer in Government Department, aggrieved by which the appellant forwarded her application to Central Information Commission, and thus, BSNL was directed to furnish the details of monthly remuneration of the respondent.

The respondent and BSNL in the capacity of the employer, aggrieved by the order of CIC, filed an appeal challenging the impugned Order, where he contended that the said Order was passed without giving him an opportunity of being heard. Learned Single Judge allowed the petition only on the aforesaid ground and directed the CIC to decide the appeal afresh after affording an opportunity of hearing to the parties concerned. The CIC directed to provide the information in the public domain after it had given an opportunity to the respondent. The respondents again challenged the Order of CIC in M.P High Court, where the learned Single Judge, set aside the Order of CIC on the basis of Supreme Court judgment in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central Information Commissioner, (2013) 1 SCC 212.

The Court, observed that question is whether the information sought is personal information, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest or would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of the respondent. It further observed that the present case was factually different from the one cited by the Learned Single Judge while disposing of the aforementioned appeal, therefore the law laid down in Girish Ramchandra was not applicable in the appellant’s case.

The Court held, that it is important to mention that the appellant and respondent share a sacrosanct relationship where the appellant-wife is entitled to know the remuneration of the husband. Hence, the appeal was allowed and the earlier orders of the Courts were set aside while the Order of CIC was upheld. [Sunita Jain v. Pawan Kumar Jain, 2018 SCC OnLine MP 373, decided on 15-05-2018]

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