RTI not for assets, liabilities of officials

Recently, on 1st July 2008, the High Court of Karnataka declared that personal information of the public authorities cannot be made available through the Right To Inforamtion Act, 2005. The order was a result of a writ petition filed by H E Rajashekarappa, Joint Director (Statistics) at Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services Department, at Ambedkar Veedhi, Bangalore. Rajashekarappa filed the case on 30th June 2006.

On 17 March 2006, one Narasimha Murthy, retired statistical inspector filed an RTI application with the PIO at the Government Planning and Statistics Department, M S Building, asking for the total assets and liablities of Rajashekarappa, for the period of 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2004-05.

But Rajashekarappa objected to his application and the Public Information Officer (PIO) rejected the application (by an order at Annexure ‘E’). This aggrieved Murthy and he filed an appeal under section 19(8) of Right to Information Act, 2005 before the Joint Secretary, Government Planning and Statistics Department, the Appellate Authority Under the RTI Act.

After this move Rajashekarappa was asked by the appellate body to furnish the required documents sought by Murthy but yet again he asked to cancel the application. The reasons given by his counsels, M S Prathima and S V Narasimhan were that the details of assets and liabilities is personal information and does not fall under the public affairs of the public authority.

The counsels also metioned that the appellate body made a blunder by setting aside the order made by the PIO and asking Rajashekarappa to furnish details. Thus Murthy was asked to pay a penalty of total Rs.10,000, with Rs.5000 due in three months from the ruling, and his application was declared canceled.

The High Court’s also ruled that it cannot be said that the RTI Act encompasses the personal information of the officials of public authorities. Thus Murthy had no right to seek such information under this Act. The court also called his application troublesome and an attempt to settle scores with Rajashekarappa.

The verdict.

While the ruling quashed Murthy’s application and barred him from knowing the required details, it has left bigger questions on the nature of the curbs on the RTI Act.

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Editorial team consists of Shree DN, Subramaniam Vincent and Meera K.