Disclosure of information about the donations made by President is in public interest
Background of the Case
The President’s Secretariat filed a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India against the order dated 4th May, 2012 passed by the Central Information Commission (CIC), under the Right to Information (RTI) Act which directed to take steps to publish on the website of the President’s Secretariat the details regarding the donations made i.e.
- the names of the recipients of the donations,
- their addresses and
- the amount of donation in each case.
The petitioner argued that:-
- CIC has equated donations made by the President with subsidy, which is not the case.
- The information is personal, the disclosure of which was not in the public interest and hence is barred 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. of the RTI Act.
- The right to privacy of third parties would be breached, in case such disclosure is made.
- The CIC has not followed its earlier decision rendered in Appeal No. CIC/WB/A/2009/000217 dated 18.12.2009, wherein it had been held that information in relation to donations made from out of the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund cannot be sought under the RTI Act.
View of the Delhi High Court
- Donations made by the President are out of public funds which are collected by the state from the citizens by imposition of taxes, duties, cess, services charges, etc.
- Every citizen is entitled to know as to how the money, which is collected by the State from him by exaction has been utilized.
- Merely because the person making the donations happens to be the President of India, is no ground to withhold the said information as the Hon’ble President of India is not immune from the application of the Act.
- The disclosure of information with regard to the donations made by the President would not impinge on the privacy of the persons receiving the donations, as their financial distress, other circumstances, and need would become public. There could be instances where the entire details may not be disclosed by resort to Sections 8, 10 and 11 of the Act. However, it cannot be said that mere disclosure of the names, addresses and the amounts disbursed to each of the donees would infringe the protection provided to them Under Section 8 (1) (j) of the Act.
- The donations made by the President of India cannot said to relate to personal information of the President. It cannot be said that the disclosure of the information would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the President of India.
- A person who approaches the President, seeking a donation, can have no qualms in the disclosure of his/her name, address, the amount received by him/her as donation or even the circumstance which compelled him or her to approach the First Citizen of the country to seek a donation.
- Such acts of generosity and magnanimity done by the President should be placed in the public domain as they would enhance the stature of the office of the President of India. In that sense, the disclosure of the information would be in the public interest as well.
- Since this Court is not concerned with the disclosures vis-à-vis the Prime Ministers Relief Fund, the said issue is not being dealt with herein.
Citation: Delhi High Court in President’s Secretariat v. Nitish Kumar Tripathi in W.P.(C.) No. 3382/2012
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/HC/391
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission