Information relating to the official tours under taken by the Chairman of LIC, the gifts received by him & related issues - CIC: Provide all information pertaining to the expenditure incurred on National/International Travel except the personal details
O R D E R
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 03 points relating to the official tours under taken by the Chairman of LIC in the Years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, the gifts received by him and issues related thereto.
The CPIO vide its letter dated 02.01.2016 provided point wise response to the Appellant stating that the information sought at point no. 01 & 02 was exempt from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (d) and (j) of the RTI Act, 2005. For Point no. 03 reply was provided. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA, vide its order dated 03.03.2016 concurred with the reply of the CPIO and cited the decision of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande vs. Central Information Commission & ors. SLP(C) No. 27734 of 2012 dated 03/10/2012 and the decision of Hon’ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana in KK Sharma v. State of Haryana WP (C) No. 4930 of 2011 dated 07.03.2013 wherein it was held that copy of TA bills were personal information and RTI Act would not be available to a disgruntled employee seeking information regarding public officials which is personal in nature on account of furtherance of personal vendetta.
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Mr. N. Saini (M: 09826097030) through VC; Respondent: Mr. P. R. Mishra, Secretary (RTI), LIC Central Office, Mumbai (M: 8291416255) and Mr. Ashok Surana, Assistant Secretary (RTI) (M: 9460480620) through VC;
The Appellant reiterated the contents of his RTI application and stated that substantive information had not been provided to him, till date. The Respondent informed the Commission that in the aforesaid case, hearing in the matter had already been conducted on 26.08.2015, however the Appellant was not present at the time of the hearing. The Appellant confirmed to the submission made by the Respondent in this regard and stated that vide orders of the High Court, the hearing before the Commission had been re-scheduled to the present date. However, the Commission was not in possession of any authentic records in this regard.
The Appellant submitted that he sought information regarding copies of the travelling bills (T.A) on the travels made by the Chairman of LIC in the Years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, the gifts received by him etc. The Appellant further stated that details of Government Officers travelling on public expenses should be disclosed to the public. In its reply, the Respondent submitted that vide CPIO’s letter dated 02.01.2016 it was informed the appellant that copies of TA Bills were denied under Section 8(1)(d) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; and (j) of the RTI Act, 2005. It was further explained that information sought was not kept as readily available record as it was not required for day to day administrative job of the Public Authority. The Respondent further explained that information sought would have to be collected from various files which would disproportionally divert the resource of Public Authority as per section 7 (9) of the RTI Act 2005. The Commission observed that information sought by the Appellant was not personal in nature and pertained to expenses incurred for journey undertaken on official capacity paid by the Public Exchequer. Therefore, all travelling expenses incurred for travel in official capacity should be disclosed to the Appellant. As regards disclosure of Information sought in point no.2 regarding details of gifts which was received in the official capacity should be disclosed sue-motu by the high ranking officials keeping in view the dignity of the office held by them. It was felt that maximum disclosure of information should be made in order to promote transparency in the functioning of the public authority. The Respondent in his written submission dated 26.04.2017 had stated that the tours undertaken by the Chairman were related to duties and responsibilities of the job which are vital for the institution involving commercial confidence and trade secret therefore information sought is exempted under section 8 (1) (d) of the RTI Act.
The Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the decision Vijay Prakash Vs Union of India & Ors (LNIND 2009 DEL 865427) 01.07.2009, W.P (C) no. 803 of 2009 had observed the following in para 20:
“A bare consideration of the right of individuals, including public servants, to privacy would seem to suggest that privacy rights, by virtue 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. whenever asserted, would have to prevail. However, that is not always the case, since the public interest element, seeps through that provision. Thus when a member of the public requests information about a public servant, a distinction must be made between "official" information inherent to the position and those that are not, and therefore affect only his/her private life. This balancing task appears to be easy; but is in practice, not so, having regard to the dynamics inherent in the conflict.”
Considering the facts of the case and the submissions made the Appellant, the Commission directs the Respondent to provide all information pertaining to the expenditure incurred on National/International Travel as sought by the Appellant in his RTI application, except the personal details, within a period of 15 days from the date of receipt of this order. This would serve as a role model for the entire organization to emulate and set standards of the conduct and dignity of the institution engaged in the delivery of the services for the common man.
The Appeal stands disposed with the above direction.
Citation: Mr. N. Saini v. LIC of India in Appeal No.:-CIC/MP/A/2016/000940-BJ, Date of Decision : 08.05.2017