HC: Information about the passport not to be disclosed to third party
The Central Information Commission (CIC) order directing the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to provide copies of passports of third parties, the birth certificates, educational qualifications and identity proofs to the applicants who filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The CIC had ruled that such information is not personal. The CIC directed to disclose the information holding that citizen’s right to information is to be given primacy over their right to privacy.
A Bench of Justice Manmohan said, “This Court is also of the view that if the passport number of a third party is furnished to an applicant, it can be misused. For instance, if the applicant were to lodge a report with the police that a passport bearing a particular number is lost, the Passport Authority would automatically revoke the same without knowledge and to the prejudice of the third party……After all, passport number is not only personal information but also an identification proof, specifically when one travels abroad.”
The Delhi High Court heard the petition challenging the order of CIC and held that just like the Permanent Account Number of an individual, Passport information is personal information and cannot be disclosed to a third party. The High Court observed that the CIC had not examined the issue of larger public interest. The Bench ruled that even if the CIC concluded that passport information was not exempt from disclosure under the RTI Act, the procedure prescribed under section 11 of the RTI Act for the third party information would have to be followed.