Medical reimbursement of SC judges exempted from RTI: HC

Medical reimbursement of SC judges exempted from RTI: HC

The Delhi High Court has held that reimbursements of medical expenses of the Supreme Court judges cannot be disclosed under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, saying it does not serve any public interest.

Justice Vibhu Bakhru held that the Central Information Commission (CIC) was in error to direct the Supreme Court Registry to provide the information sought, saying "medical records are not liable to be disclosed unless it is shown that the same is in larger public interest".

"In the present case, the CIC has completely overlooked this aspect of the matter. Further, the extent of medical reimbursement to an individual is also, in one sense, personal information as it would disclose the extent of medical services availed by an individual.

"Thus, unless a larger public interest is shown to be served, there is no necessity for providing such information. Thus, a direction for maintaining records in a manner so as to provide such information is not warranted," the court said.

The court made the observations in its judgement on the plea of the Supreme Court registry against CIC's order directing the apex court to maintain details of medical reimbursement availed of by each of its judges in the last three years to be furnished to information-seekers.

The high court held CIC's order as "erroneous". CIC had passed its order on RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal's plea against the apex court's response that it does not keep records of medical reimbursement of individual judges and declining to furnish him the information sought by him under the transparency law.

The Commission had in 2010, while asking the apex court's registry to make arrangements to maintain details of medical reimbursement made to judges, specified that the same be maintained in digital format so that their retrieval and disclosure could be easier.

However, the apex court had refused, citing a stay by the Delhi High Court in a similar case, prompting Agarwal to once again approach CIC.

In its second order of 2012, CIC directed the apex court to place the order before the Secretary General of the Supreme Court so that he can ensure its compliance.

It is against this order that the apex court registry had moved the High Court in appeal.
The High Court, while allowing the appeal, said that "information relating to the medical records would be personal information which is exempt from disclosure under the Act".

"The medical bills would indicate the treatment and/or medicines required by individuals and this would clearly be an invasion of the privacy," it said.

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