Details of financial assistance given by President to various people – CIC: It is given out of the public funds – details must be available in the public domain – Section 4(1)(b) mandates such disclosure – stay granted by Delhi HC
1. In his RTI application, the Appellant had sought several details about the financial assistance given by the President of India to various people during the last ten years. The CPIO had refused to disclose the details of the recipients of the financial assistance by claiming exemption under subsection 1(j) of section 8 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. He had also stated that the financial assistance was being given at the discretion of the President in terms of the prescribed byelaws. As far as the financial assistance to the Appellant himself is concerned, the Appellant had pointed out that his application for such help had not been received in their office. Not satisfied with this reply, the Appellant had preferred an appeal. The Appellate Authority had disposed of the appeal by observing that the CPIO was right in not disclosing the personal details of the individuals who had received the financial assistance from the President. She had also clarified that there were no byelaws governing the manner in which the financial assistance was to be given even though the CPIO had said so earlier.
2. The Appellant argued that he had a right to get this information because the assistance was being given out of the public funds and such information could not, therefore, be considered to be personal. On the other hand, the Respondents argued that the details of the persons receiving financial assistance should not be disclosed not only because such disclosure would result in the unwarranted invasion of the privacy of those individuals but also because the Delhi High Court had already stayed an order of the CIC for disclosing such information, passed earlier in the case of Nitish Kumar Tripathi.
3. We have carefully considered the facts of the case and the submissions made before us. As far as the disclosure of this information is concerned, on merit, we are in agreement with the Appellant. Since the financial assistance is given out of the public funds, the details of the recipients must be available in the public domain just as the details of the recipients of various other subsidies and concessions given by the government are to be publicly disclosed. Section 4(1) (b) mandates such disclosure, in any case. However, in view of the stay granted by the Delhi High Court in the LPA 497/2012 and CM 11683/2012 (President's Secretariat versus Nitish Kumar Tripathi), we refrain from giving any direction in the matter. Depending on the outcome of that case, it would be clear if such information should be disclosed at all.
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Shri C P Rai v. President’s Secretariat in File No.CIC/SM/A/2012/001603