Documents pertaining to corruption are not personal information and the same should not be denied to the seeker

Punjab and Haryana High Court: While hearing upon the challenge to the Order passed by the State Information Commissioner, Haryana whereby it had upheld the decision of the State Public Information Officer denying the petitioner information regarding the corruption cases pending against the public servants of the State of Haryana, the Bench of G.S. Sandhawalia, J., quashed the Order of the SIC denying the said information to the petitioner and directed the SIC to decide the second appeal afresh, keeping in view the principles laid down by the Division Bench of this Court in First Appellate Authority-cum-Additional Director General of Police v. CIC, (LPA No.744 and 745 of 2011) whereby it was held that any information related to corruption is relevant information which cannot be denied to the seeker.

In the present case, the petitioner had sought information regarding corruption cases pending against the serving and retired public servants of the State of Haryana, along with the information on whether any benefit like increments, promotion, extension of service, reinstatement etc., had been withheld despite registration of cases. Information had also been sought for the names and designations of such officers who granted service benefits to the said officers against whom the cases had been registered. The SIC relying on the Supreme Court decision in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. CIC, (2013) 1 SCC 212, had decided that the information which was sought is a matter between the employee and the employer and therefore disclosure of which is not related to any public authority or public interest. The counsel for the petitioner, Pardeep Kumar Rapria contended before the Bench that, it is the right of a citizen to know about the information of the corruption cases pending against public servants and the same cannot be held to be personal information which cannot be disclosed.

Having perused the facts and contentions, the Court pointed out that the decision of the Supreme Court in Girish Ramchandra is not applicable to the facts of the present case, because unlike the case referred to, no information was sought regarding the matter of the service career and also details of assets and liabilities of the of the public servants, which comes under the category of personal information according to the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in the aforementioned case. The Court further observed that it was apparent from the RTI application of the petitioner that the only information he sought was related to pending cases of corruption by the public servants. [Subhash v. State Information Commission, Civil Writ Petition No.17718 of 2014, decided on 26.07.2016]

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