List of relatives and private guests staying in the Rashtrapati Bhavan was sought
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the President’s Secretariat seeking list of all the relatives and private guests who had stayed in the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the expenditure incurred on them by way of hospitality including boarding and lodging and use of transport. The Public Information Officer (PIO) informed him that the list of the relatives and private guests staying in the Rashtrapati Bhavan could not be disclosed being personal information of the Rashtrapati and exempted 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. Regarding the expenditure incurred on the hospitality of relatives and private guests, the PIO stated that no such information was maintained and that the expenditure was being incurred out of the annual budget meant for the Garage and Household section of the President Secretariat.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant pointed out that if the expenditure on the relatives and private guests of the Rashtrapati was being made out of public funds, the citizens have a right to know about it. The respondent submitted that the Rashtrapati Bhavan did not maintain any separate list of guests visiting or residing with the President and therefore it would not be possible to produce any such list. He also submitted that no separate account was kept of the expenditure incurred in hospitality of the guests in the Rashtrapati Bhavan and that all expenditure was incurred out of the overall hospitality and transportation budget.
View of CIC
The Commission observed that there is no doubt that just because an individual occupies a Constitutional position, he ceases to have a private life. No citizen can possibly interfere or invade the privacy of any Constitutional authority as long as the expenses incurred by the authority concerned is within the limits of the various entitlements conferred on that authority. It is important that the entitlements of office of all such authorities should be clearly spelt out and publicly disclosed so that there is no doubt in anybody's mind about what kind of information one should seek. The Commission held that if all expenditure on all kinds of guests, private or official, visiting the Rashtrapati Bhavan is met out of its official budget, it should be clearly stated. However, if the expenditure incurred on the hospitality of relatives and private guests of the Rashtrapati is not met out of the official budget, this too should be clearly stated so as to remove all doubts from the mind of the citizens. The Commission directed the PIO to revisit the entire case and intimate the entitlements of the Rashtrapati in such matters and if such expenditure is made completely out of the official budget or not to the appellant. Regarding the list of guests, the CIC held that since no separate account or list is being maintained of the guests, the PIO cannot produce one. The Commission also ruled that it cannot be anybody's business to find out which relative or private guest of the Rashtrapati visits him or resides with him. This kind of enquiry is clearly outside the purview of the RTI Act.
Citation: Mr. Om Prakash Pareek v. President’s Secretariat in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/001619
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1382
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