Institutions can't claim exemption under RTI Act: CIC

Institutions can't claim exemption under RTI Act: CIC

Term personal applied only to individuals and not to organisation

Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said the term “personal” was something which applied to an individual and not to an organisation, institution or corporate.

“In common language, we would ascribe the adjective ‘personal’ to an attribute which applies to an individual and not to an institution or a corporate. From this, it flows that ‘personal’ cannot be related to institutions, organisations or corporates.
Hence Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act cannot be applied when the information concerns institutions,organisations or corporates,” the Commission said.

Explaining further, it said that Section 8(1)(j) of the Act, dealing with exemptions from disclosure, talked about those information which must be personal in nature.
“Words in a law should normally be given the meanings given in common language,” the CIC said.

Privacy invasion

The panel also said the disclosure of information can only be denied when there is a possibility that it would “lead to unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual. The State has no right to invade the privacy of an individual.”

“There are some extraordinary situations where the State may be allowed to invade the privacy of a citizen. In those circumstances, special provisions of the law apply usually with certain safeguards. Therefore, where the State routinely obtains information from citizens, this  information is in relationship to a public activity and will not be an intrusion on privacy.”

The panel made the observations while allowing an appeal filed by Ikramuddin, seeking information relating to some title deeds from Jamia Millia Islamia University here. The university authorities denied to part with the information saying that it was an invasion of the privacy of the institution and had no relationship with any public activity or interest.

It also contended that in case title documents fell in wrong hands, it would be highly prejudicial to the cause of the institution and if copies of the title documents were given, someone can misuse them.

For instance, if an oral donation of land had been given, the property dealer may approach the donor and get him to renege, the university authorities submitted.

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