Property details, investments and assets can be accessed by one’s spouse under RTI

Central Information Commission (CIC): “Though certain documents like annual returns of assets, investments, IT returns etc were earlier declared as private/ personal or third party information, as far as spouses are concerned they are not private or personal or third party information between them, in the context of marital disputes especially for maintenance purposes”, held CIC while directing Delhi Transco Ltd. to provide property details, investments and assets of the husband, to an estranged wife and an alleged victim of domestic violence. This order of CIC came upon an appeal filed by a woman engaged in matrimonial and maintenance dispute with her husband who was a government employee and she sought to know details of his property including that given in dowry and action details against her husband for attempting to commit bigamy, etc. While rejecting the contention of Delhi Transco that income details of a person is “personal information”, CIC referred to the judgments of Delhi High Court, Kusum Sharma v. Mahinder Kumar Sharma, 2015 SCC OnLine Del 6793, decided on 14th January 2015) and Puneet Kaur v. Inderjit Singh Sawhney, 2011 SCC OnLine Del 3841, in which the court had asked both husband and wife to submit affidavits of income, assets and investments. CIC further observed that depending on the financial conditions and non-availability of support from parents, when husband does not maintain his wife, it challenges her right to live, and thus information related to maintenance becomes life related information. This information about assets, income and investments of spouses is no more private or personal information as against spouses, even if that information could be personal or private information as against any person other than spouse. The proviso to Section 8(1)(j) read with Section 8(2) of the Right to Information Act entitled the appellant to get information which she sought because of overwhelming public interest in securing the lives of deserted wives. So far, such information has been considered exempt under the RTI Act and treated as private or third party information. CIC also lashed the PIO and General Manager (HR) of Delhi Transco for suppressing the information and obstructing the furnishing of information to the appellant. (Prashansa Sharma v. Delhi Transco Ltd., 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 258, decided on February 3, 2015)

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