Reasons for providing information regarding passport holder’s to a third party in spite of objection – the appellant wanted action against the PIO - CIC: such information is personal and exempt u/s 8(1)(j) – show cause issued to the PIO
1. In two separate RTI applications, the Appellant had sought two sets of information, namely, one, the copies of the documents furnished by Nitin Ahuja, her husband at the time of applying for the passport and second, the reasons for providing information regarding her passport to a third party in spite of her objection against such disclosure. As for the first set of information, her RTI application had been transferred to the Jalandhar passport office which had replied to her with the remarks that the said passport had not been issued by that office and therefore, they had no information to offer and also that the desired information was exempt 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 Right to Information (RTI) Act. However, she did not receive the reply and hence had preferred an appeal. After the decision of the Appellate Authority in the case, the CPIO from the Jalandhar passport office had once again informed her about the case. As regards the second case, she has not received any information from the CPIO concerned about the reasons for his disclosing the information regarding her passport to a third party in spite of her objection.
2. During the hearing, the Appellant submitted that her husband was living in Canada since 7 September 2011 while his brother lived here in India. She alleged that the brother living in India had applied for information by faking the signature of her husband and the passport office had issued a notice to her under section 11 of the RTI Act before disclosing the information. She had objected to the disclosure but, in spite of that, the CPIO went ahead and disclosed not only the fact that her passport had been impounded but also some other personal details, like the copy of her schools certificate. She is aggrieved by this decision and wants action against the CPIO. The respondent contended that he was not aware about the case and would have to go through the case file to find out the facts of the case.
3. We have carefully considered the facts of the case and the submissions made before us. As far as the first set of information is concerned, namely, the passport application details of Nitin Ahuja, her husband, the CPIO was right in denying it because this happens to be the personal information of the passport holder and cannot be ordinarily disclosed even to the wife. However, in the second case, we find the decision of the CPIO highly problematic. Very rightly, he had issued a notice under section 11 when he received the application seeking details about the Appellant's passport. After he received the objection from the Appellant, he did not take it into account before finally deciding to disclose the information. As a result, some information which is clearly in the nature of personal information relating to the Appellant got disclosed to a third party. The Appellant is rightly aggrieved because of this decision of the CPIO.
4. We think that the CPIO must show cause why we should not impose penalty on him for this indiscreet act in terms of the provisions of subsection 1 of section 20 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Therefore, we direct the CPIO concerned to appear before us in the next date of hearing on 26 August 2013 at 11.30 a.m. and show cause for his decision resulting in the disclosure of third party information. We will decide on the penalty only after hearing his explanation.
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Smt. Shashi Arora, v. Ministry of External Affairs in File No. CIC/SM/A/2013/000452 & 640