Grounds for Rejection of RTI –
Citizens now have the legal right to access information held by public authorities thanks to the historic Right to Information Act of 2005 (RTI Act). All public authorities, including government departments, government projects, and businesses that are largely funded or under government control, are subject to the RTI Act.
An important tool for encouraging accountability and openness in the operations of Indian public authorities is the Right to Information Act (RTI) of 2005. By giving people the ability to access information under the jurisdiction of public authorities, it empowers citizens. On the other hand, under certain Act provisions, information may be withheld in certain situations. In light of a complaint filed by a party to the proceedings, this article critically investigates the issue of a central government undertaking company refusing to provide information in violation of Sections 8(1)(g) and (j) of the RTI Act.
Information may be withheld under Section 8(1)(g) of the RTI Act if disclosing it would put someone's life or physical safety in danger. In a similar vein, Section 8(1)(j) permits the withholding of personal information that is not necessary for the public interest. These clauses are essential for safeguarding people's safety and interests as well as guaranteeing the privacy of specific kinds of data. Examining the particulars and the type of information requested is crucial when a government undertaking company denies access to information, citing Sections 8(1)(g) and (j) of the RTI Act. Although the Act permits information denials under these sections, it is important to assess whether the denials are justified and whether the grounds for the denials are in line with the Act.
- Section 8(1)(g) of the RTI Act : If the disclosure would endanger the life and physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes, then public authority is exempted from disclosure of such information.
- Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, summarises information pertaining to personal data whose disclosure is unrelated to any public activity or interest, or which would result in an unjustified invasion of an individual's privacy, unless the CPIO, SPIO, or Appellate Authority determine that the disclosure of such data is justified by the greater good of the public and should be exempted from disclosure.
Information pertaining to complaints is not expressly shielded from disclosure by the RTI Act. However, under Section 8(1)(j) of the Act, a government undertaking company may be able to refuse such information if it is convinced that disclosing the information would result in an unjustified invasion of the person's privacy. For instance, if a company servant is the target of a complaint about misconduct, the company may be able to withhold information about the complaint if it determines that disclosing the information would identify the complainant or the servant and result in an unjustified invasion of their privacy.
The Supreme Court of India ruled in the case of Central Public Information Officer v. Subhash Chandra Agarwal that the RTI Act is a "powerful tool" that citizens can use to hold public authorities accountable and that the disclosure exceptions must be read carefully.
The Court further held that the right to privacy must be weighed against the right to access information because it is not an absolute right. The Supreme Court ruled that "the right to access information must be given precedence over the right to privacy when the information sought is of public interest." Government undertaking companies may withhold information pertaining to a complaint under Sections 8(1)(g) and (j) of the RTI Act, but only in cases where the complainant or servant faces a substantial risk of harm. In order to uphold democratic values, this denial must be supported within the bounds of the Act, encouraging accountability and transparency.
A person aggrieved by wrongful denial of information under section 8(1)(g) & (j) can resort to appeal to First Appellate Authority followed by Second Appeal to Central/Central Information Commission by citing various judicial precedents to support his/her case that information withheld cannot be denied.