Details of counseling between estranged couple and counselor falls within the exemption clause of RTI Act

Central Information Commission (CIC): While observing that relationship between a person and counselor is fiduciary and personal in nature, CIC held that information regarding negotiation, mediation, conciliation and counseling between estranged couples and counselor falls under exempted clause of information of other spouse. “If RTI is allowed to be exercised in securing information about mediation, cantankerous spouse will exploit mediation as a source to get information with which they can harass the other spouse and use it in courts of law also,” noted the Commission. The order of Commission came upon an appeal filed by a woman who sought to know details of her conciliation proceedings before the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA). It was alleged by the woman that due to marital problems, she was referred for counseling under DSLSA and details of her conciliation proceedings before the DSLSA were most required in her domestic violence and divorce cases pending at Patiala House Courts. Earlier, she was denied the information by DSLSA on the ground that according to Rule 20 of Mediation & Conciliation Rules, 2004 proceedings of mediation and conciliation cannot be obtained and cannot be used for any purpose other than achieving conciliation. After perusing the relevant material on record, CIC observed that the proceeding related to the appellant before the DSLSA was not a divorce proceeding, but a counseling and conciliation proceeding, confidentiality of which need to be protected as per the law and in public interest. CIC further observed, “Information regarding negotiation, mediation, conciliation and counseling will fall under exempted clause of information of other spouse, being personal and given in fiduciary capacity and, no public interest is established in disclosure, while there is larger public interest in protecting that information as that would help mediation to flourish, hence such information shall not be disclosed.” (Rama Aggarwal v. Delhi State Legal Services Authority, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 4872, decided on 13-8-2015)

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