Chh HC | Oath taken and subscribed by Judges held exempted from disclosure under S. 8(1)(j) of RTI Act; copy of oath denied to applicant

Chhattisgarh High Court: Sanjay K. Agrawal, J. reversed the order of the State Information Commission whereby it had directed the Public Information Officer (“PIO”) of the Chhattisgarh High Court to furnish a copy of the oath taken and subscribed by Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra and Justice N.K. Agarwal.

The question to be considered was — whether the applicant was entitled to get the copy of oath taken and subscribed by the Judges of the High Court which they had taken before entering upon their office as prescribed under Article 219 of the Constitution or is it protected under the provisions contained in either Section 8(1)(e) or Section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act, 2007.

The applicant had invoked Section 6(1) of the RTI Act and sought a copy of the oath aforementioned. The PIO rejected the application in light of exemption provided under Section 8 (exemption from disclosure of information). The appellant filed an appeal before the First Appellate Authority which was dismissed. However, on further appeal, the State Information Commission passed the impugned order mentioned above. Aggrieved thereby, the PIO filed the present writ petition.

Praful N. Bharat, Advocate made submissions on behalf of the PIO. Per contra, the Shyam Sundar Lal Tekchandani, Advocate, represented the State Information Commission.

Perusing Section 8, the High Court observed: “The conflict between the right to personal privacy and the public interest in the disclosure of personal information stands recognised by the legislature in terms of exempting purely personal information under Section 8(1)(j) of the Act of 2005. Under such exemption clause, the disclosure may be refused if the request pertains to personal information, the disclosure of which has no relation to any public activity or interest or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual.”

Reliance was placed on Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. CIC, (2013) 1 SCC 212R.K. Jain v. Union of India, (2013) 14 SCC 794; and Canara Bank v. C.S. Shyam, (2018) 11 SCC 426. The Court observed further: “The applicant did not disclose any public interest much less larger public interest involved in seeking such information of the Judges in the said application, nor was any finding recorded by the Chhattisgarh State Information commission as to the involvement of any larger public interest in directing supply of such information to the applicant under Section 19(8)(a)(i) of the Act of 2005.”

Holding that the application failed to fulfill the requirement under Section 8(1)(j), the Court set aside the order of the State Commission.[PIO, High Court of Chhattisgarh v. Arun Kumar Gupta, 2019 SCC OnLine Chh 91, decided on 05-08-2019]

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