Alleging that her husband has a relationship outside their wedlock, Appellant sought information to substantiate it - CIC: Bigamy is a crime u/s 494 of IPC; There is a larger public interest to override non disclosure of personal information u/s 8(1)(j)
2. The appellant through her RTI application is seeking certified copies of all medical documents submitted by Mr. Suraj Chaudhary and Mrs. Vandana Chaudhary from the time of admission for delivery by Mrs. Vandana Chaudhary on 106-2014 till the date of discharge from the Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences, Bhubaneswar which was a recognized institution as part of deemed to be University KIIT, by the respondent/UGC. Claiming nonfurnishing of information by the respondent authority, the appellant approached the Commission after first appeal.
3. Heard the submissions. The appellant submitted that she was married to Mr. Suraj Suhag, alias, Suraj Chaudhary, who had filed divorce petition, which is pending for two years. She claimed: she got a female child from the wedlock with Mr Suraj; during pendency of divorce petition, her husband had committed bigamy by marrying one Mrs. Vandana Chaudhary, information about which was conveyed to her by her relatives; she was unable to verify these facts, as she was residing at Hisar, Haryana State, whereas her husband is living far away in another state, that is, Odisha, at Bhubaneswar; she sought under RTI Act the documents signed by Mrs Vandana Chaudhary and Suraj Chaudhary at the time of admission for delivery of child at the concerned hospital. She said that Mrs Vandana Chaudhary had undergone caesarean operation for delivering a girl child on 1062014 from out of her relationship with Mr Suresh; and that her husband dropped his family name “Suhag” and adopted the family name of Mr Vandana Chaudhary to change his name to Mr Suresh Chaudhary. The hospital authorities refused to furnish the documents sought, saying that that their hospital was a private body and not bound by the RTI Act. She approached the respondent authority/UGC that recognized and provided a status of deemed to be university to Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology University, to which the said hospital is affiliated. She said that these documents will be helpful for her for probing into the matter if her husband had committed bigamy. She wanted this information in interest of protection of her family. She submitted to the Commission that she was not interested in divorcing her husband that was why she did not file a criminal complaint for bigamy as that would end their relationship. She pleaded to help her in protecting the family relationship for the sake of their daughter, which could only happen if her husband abandons the extramarital relationship. She claimed that it was her right to have association of the husband and husband has a duty to be with them taking care of her and their daughter and to give her family both social and financial security. As she was pursuing to secure her rights for the welfare of the child and protection of family, she claimed that there is public interest in her demand for information. She also stated that if the information sought is not given claiming that to be personal information as per Section 8(1) (j), it will facilitate a crime of bigamy, leading to destruction of a family and seriously jeopardise the welfare of herself and the minor child. She contended that her husband and that lady Ms Vandana cannot hide their illicit relationship under the garb of privacy. The right to privacy cannot be used for committing unlawful acts and crimes.
4. The officer of UGC submitted that the university referred by the appellant is a “Deemed to be University” and they had already transferred the RTI application to the said University, which had replied back denying the information as the same relates to third party/personal information of Mrs. Vandana Chaudhary. They have shown the relevant copies to the Commission during hearing.
5. Having heard the submissions and perused the record, the Commission tried to contact Mrs Vandana Chaudhary and Suraj Chaudhary but their contact details could not be procured despite sincere attempts. The Commission finds no reason to disbelieve the contention of the appellant, Ms. Vijayanti who claimed documents signed by Mrs Vandana Chaudhary and Suraj Chaudhary at the time of admission for delivery of child at KIIMS hospital, Bhubaneshwar. She alleged that Mr. Suraj Chaudhary who is her husband, is having relationship outside their wedlock and that she even suspects that he is in a bigamous relationship with Mrs Vandana Chaudhary. She required the information to substantiate this fact and reiterated that the sought information was very vital to establish her contention.
6. The Commission observes that a larger public interest is proved by the appellant to override non disclosure of personal information under section 8(1)(j) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. as she is alleging that her husband is living in a bigamous relationship during subsistence of a valid marriage with her. Practices of plural marriages during continuation of first marriage is considered a crime under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code which states “Marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife: Whoever having a husband or wife living, marries in any case in which such marriage is void by reason of its taking place during the life of such husband or wife shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine”.
7. While examining the element of larger public interest, a comparative examination of the two conflicting aspects has to be made by the public authority that has a duty to consider whether any public interest lies in disclosure or in non disclosure. Commission observes that under given facts and circumstances of the case, a larger public interest will be served in disclosure of representation made by Mrs Vandana Chaudhary and Suraj Chaudhary in the form of documents signed by them for admission for delivery of child at KIIMS hospital, Bhubneshwar. Disclosure of patient admission form filled by Mrs Vandana Chaudhary and Suraj Chaudhary at the time of admission for delivery of child cannot result in invasion of privacy as it is just a form filled at the time of admission of patient in the concerned hospital. Even if such admission form is assumed to be personal information under section 8(1)(j) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. , a larger public interest demands its disclosure. The impugned documents which are sought by the appellant will be helpful to her in confirming whether there exists any bigamous relationship between these two persons and accordingly it will facilitate to put an end to these allegations. If public authority does not disclose this information there is every likelihood of conveying an impression that something is obscure which is being concealed. Disclosure of this document will fulfil requirement of appellant as well as serve the public purpose of saving the established institution of marriage whereas non disclosure will indeed facilitate encouragement of an illegal act if it at all exists in this case.
8. If the concerned document signed by them contains their personal information like address, contact details etc. then such information should be blocked and access should be provided to that part of this record which does not contain any personal information and which can reasonably be disclosed by applying severability clause in terms of Section 10(1) Where a request for access to information is rejected on the ground that it is in relation to information which is exempt from disclosure, then, notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, access may be provided to that part of the record which does not contain any information which is exempt from disclosure under this Act and which can reasonably be severed from any part that contains exempt information. of the RTI Act. More over it will serve their interest as it is in best interest of all the parties to this dispute to come out of this allegation if it lacks merit. Hence under section 8(2) Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (19 of 1923) nor any of the exemptions permissible in accordance with sub-section (1), a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests. this information has to be given. Above all this disclosure will be in larger public interest and hence should be disclosed. Hence, disclosure outweighs non disclosure under section 8(1). However, the medical records sought by appellant cannot be furnished as it is private document.
9. The Commission hence in view of para 7 and 8 above, directs the CPIO, UGC to coordinate with its affiliated University i.e., KIIT to provide to the appellant certified copy of patient admission form and related documents submitted by Mrs Vandana Chaudhary and Suraj Chaudhary at the time of admission for delivering a girl child on 1062014 at KIIMS Hospital, Bhubaneswar, within 30 days from the date of receipt of this order. However, the Medical related information, medical/diagnostic records of mother and child need not be given.
10. The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
(M. Sridhar Acharyulu)
Citation: Vijayanti, Hisar Vs. University Grants Commission, Delhi in Case No.CIC/SA/A/2015/001790