The Supreme Court has held that service details of employees fall within the ambit of ‘personal information’ under Section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act, and that such details cannot be furnished unless any nexus with larger public interest is shown.
This was held by allowing the appeal filed by Canara Bank Ltd., against the judgment of the High Court. An employee of the bank had sought information regarding transfer and postings of entire clerical staff during the period from 01.01.2002 to 31.07.2006. The Public Information Officer declined to furnish information stating it was personal information exempt under Sec.8(1)(j).
On appeal, the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) directed the Bank to furnish the information as sought for. Against the order of the CIC, the Bank approached the High Court. The Single Bench and the Division Bench concurrently held against the Bank, dismissing the writ petition.
Their Lordships dismissed the appeal and upholding the orders passed by the High Court held as under:-
“We are in agreement with the CIC and the courts below that the details called for by the petitioner i.e. copies of all memos issued to the third respondent, show-cause notices and orders of censure/punishment, etc. are qualified to be personal information as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act.
The performance of an employee/officer in an organization is primarily a matter between the employee and the employer and normally those aspects are governed by the service rules which fall under the expression “personal information”, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or public interest. On the other hand, the disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of that individual.
Of course, in a given case, if the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information, appropriate orders could be passed but the petitioner cannot claim those details as a matter of right.
The details disclosed by a person in his income tax returns are “personal information” which stand exempted from disclosure under clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act, unless involves a larger public interest and the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.”
The court was of the considered view that the application made by respondent No.1 under Section 6 of the Act was wholly misconceived and was, therefore, rightly rejected by the Public Information Officer and Chief Public Information Officer whereas wrongly allowed by the Central Information Commission and the High Court.