PIO: The Third party declined their consent for disclosure of the information sought - CIC: Disclosure allowed as Appellant’s averments of a huge scam operating out of the matter suggests a prima-facie larger public interest in disclosure of information
The Complainant sought information through 4 points regarding disempanelment of M/s T.Q Security & Surveillance Systems Pvt. Ltd by DGR on 17.07.2013.
Grounds for the Complaint:
The CPIO has not provided the desired information. Relevant Facts emerging during Hearing:
The following were present:-
Complainant: Present in person.
Respondent: Lt. Col. Neelaksh, CPIO and G.N. Rath, Directorate General Resettlement, R K Puram, New Delhi present in person.
At the outset, Complainant desired that this matter be heard as a Second Appeal and clarified that M/s T.Q Security & Surveillance Systems Pvt. Ltd does not pertain to him. He further stated that he has not received the desired information till date and that the same is being denied inappropriately by the CPIO as third party information. He relied on certain portions of a judgment of the Madras High Court in W.P (C) 28202 of 2012 wherein the Court observed that even if a third party claims confidentiality the information sought for by the applicants cannot be withheld unless it clearly comes within the stated exemptions. He contends in this context that the information sought vide query nos. 1, 2 & 3 of his RTI Application are letters/documents which were originated by the public authority, even if concerns a third party. Further, he argues that while in the present case, information sought vide query no. 4 has been denied yet the same information was provided by the same CPIO in response to some other RTI Application. He believes that the disempanelment of his firm was vindictive and that there is a huge scam operating out of the subject matter, with respect to which, Delhi High Court in W.P (C) 5578/2013 had ordered a CBI probe. He also brought on record that he himself has filed a Writ Petition against the closure report tendered by CBI in the said probe and the matter is at present sub-judice.
CPIO submitted that the third party declined their consent for disclosure of the information sought. He further submitted that the Appellant was earlier himself running a security agency and therefore he has a commercial interest in seeking the said information. He also stated that the Appellant has already filed almost 265 RTI Applications on similar issues and that it was after the disempanelment of his agency that he has taken up litigation.
Commission has carefully heard both the parties and perused the facts on record. Commission finds the reliance of the Appellant on the judgment of the Madras High Court order feeble for his case. Even further the rationale that since the information sought vide query nos. 1 to 3 originated from the Respondent office it cannot be treated as third party is not appropriate as is the argument that the Rent Agreement sought vide query no.4 was previously disclosed by the PIO in some other RTI Application, hence it cannot be denied in the present matter.
However, it is observed that the Appellant’s averments of a huge scam operating out of the subject matter suggests of a prima-facie larger public interest in disclosure of the information sought. It may be noted that the RTI Act has been envisaged to bring probity and transparency in the working of public functionaries and the subject matter of the information sought squarely falls within the ambit of execution of public functions.
Commission although accepts that information sought primarily pertains to a third party and takes into consideration that the third party did not consent for the disclosure of the same. Notwithstanding, in the light of the Appellant’s contentions, Commission deems it appropriate to allow the disclosure of the information sought in larger public interest. In other respect, as such the nature of information sought does not appear to have any unwarranted far reaching consequences on the third parties privacy upon its disclosure.
In view of the foregoing, CPIO is directed to provide information as sought in the RTI Application to the Appellant within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order. The Appeal is disposed of accordingly.
(Divya Prakash Sinha)
Citation: Lt. Col. Naveen Kumar Anand (Retd.) v. Directorate General Resettlement in File No. CIC/CC/C/2015/000292/SD, Date of Decision: 24/03/2017