Are the names of persons nominating individuals for Padma awards disclosable?
In response to an appeal filed by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, the Information Commissioner Sushma Singh, has asked the Home Ministry to make the names of the people, nominating individuals for Padma Awards, public. Earlier in its reply the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) maintained that the information sought by the appellant is of personal in nature and henceforth cannot be made public. Exemption was claimed by invoking Sec 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. of the RTI Act.
In its directive, the CIC has acknowledged the fact that Padma Awards are the highest forms of civilian awards conferred upon any individual by the Government of India. The CIC ruled that the MHA has not been able to establish how the name of the persons making recommendations / nominations falls under the category of personal information. Hence, it would be completely illogical to keep the names of the people nominating the names of awardees secret.
It is worth mentioning here that the Padma Awards (Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shree) are the highest forms of civilian award conferred for distinguished service in the fields of art, literature, education, sports, medicine, social work, science, engineering, public affairs, civil service, trade and industry etc.