DoPT: Information about complaints made against an officer is personal information
Vide Office Memorandum (OM) No. 11/2/2013-IR (Pt.), the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) has issued certain clarification regarding the disclosure of personal information under the RTI Act, 2005. A reference has been made to a decision of the Central Information Commission (CIC) wherein it was held that information about the complaints made against an officer of the Government and any possible action the authorities might have taken on those complaints, qualifies as personal information within the meaning of provision of 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, 2005.
While deciding the said case, the Central Information Commission had cited the decision of Supreme Court of India in the matter of Girish R. Deshpande vs. CIC and others (SLP (C) no. 27734/2012) [link - http://www.rtifoundationofindia.com/dopt/SCDecision.pdf] in which it was held as under:-
"The performance of an employee/Officer in an organisation 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 could cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of that individual."
The Supreme Court further held that such information could be disclosed only if it would serve a larger public interest.
The OM has been issued under the signature of Shri Manoj Joshi, Joint Secretary (AT&A) and is for circulation to all. It is likely to bring reprieve to many government officials who are being hounded for information related to their performance as the information with regard to complaints made against any officer and action taken would be deemed to be "personal" which cannot be made public under Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.