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RTI >> Judgments >> CIC >> Exemption >> Larger Public Interest
Supreme Court(Larger Public Interest)/ High Courts(Larger Public Interest)
1 03 Jan, 2020 Shri Neeraj Sharma vs. PIO/O/o the Dy. Director General, NIC

Information Sought

Appellant filed same RTI application dated 19.05.2019 seeking information as under:-
“Copy of User Manual of monitoring module, which was provided to the Administrative Reforms Department Govt. of NCT of Delhi”.

PIO/AR Department vide letter dated 12.07.2019 stated as follows:-
“Copies of complete user manual of monitoring module for online RTI portal of Delhi Government can’t be furnished due to administrative reasons of the portal. However, if the applicant has any specific information/reports in this regard the same may be furnished”.

After hearing averments of both parties, the Commission enquired from the Appellant about the larger public interest involved in dissemination of information in this case. The appellant was unable to make a convincing case. While information about pending RTI cases, requests addressed/adjudicated by the respondent etc are available in public domain on the website, the user manual of the monitoring module involves internal confidential information about design of the modules and internal framework of the software. The respondent has rightly pointed out that such information could be misused if it reaches the wrong hands and also no larger public good will be served with such information. Hence, the Commission is of the considered opinion that the respondent shall ensure that information pertaining to disposal of RTI cases, stages of adjudication/stage of pendency thereof, reasoned decision/s on RTI requests, numbers of cases etc. in the form of reports should be updated on the website of the public authority regularly for awareness of the public at large.

The aforementioned cases are disposed off with the above directions.

2 19 Sep, 2019 Dr. Rohit Jain Vs. CPIO, Medical Council of India, Dwarka, New Delhi – 110077

Information Sought
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought clarification on 05 points on whether NABL could ignore the MCI letter dated 14.06.2017 and supersede it with Table 1 of NABL 112, Issue No. 3 amended on 16.10.2012; whether NABL could ignore the MOHFW letter dated 26.12.2016 and issues related thereto.

The CPIO, vide its letter dated 18.07.2017, informed the Appellant that the queries raised by him were in the nature of eliciting opinions and therefore did not constitute information as defined u/s 2 (f) of the RTI Act, 2005. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA, vide its order dated 28.07.2017 concurred with the response of the CPIO.

The Commission also observed that the broader issue emanating from the RTI application pertained to the determination of authorized signatories for medical lab reports, which concerns the public at large since it was a pertinent information to determine if competent medical professionals were signing the reports or not. In this context, the Commission observed that the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Bihar Public Service Commission v. Saiyed Hussain Abbas Rizwi: (2012) 13 SCC 61 while explaining the term “Public Interest” held:

“22. The expression "public interest" has to be understood in its true connotation so as to give complete meaning to the relevant provisions of the Act. The expression "public interest" must be viewed in its strict sense with all its exceptions so as to justify denial of a statutory exemption in terms of the Act. In its common parlance, the expression "public interest", like "public purpose", is not capable of any precise definition. It does not have a rigid meaning, is
elastic and takes its colour from the statute in which it occurs, the concept varying with time and state of society and its needs (State of Bihar v. Kameshwar Singh([AIR 1952 SC 252]). It also means the general welfare of the public that warrants recognition and protection; something in which the public as a whole has a stake [Black's Law Dictionary (8th Edn.)].”

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Ashok Kumar Pandey vs The State Of West Bengal (decided on 18 November, 2003Writ Petition (crl.) 199 of 2003) had made reference to the following texts for defining the meaning of “public interest’, which is stated as under:

“Strouds Judicial Dictionary, Volume 4 (IV Edition),'Public Interest' is defined thus:
"Public Interest (1) a matter of public or general interest does not mean that which is interesting as gratifying curiosity or a love of information or amusement but that in which a class of the community have a pecuniary interest, or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected."

In Black's Law Dictionary (Sixth Edition), "public interest" is defined as follows :
Public Interest something in which the public, or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected. It does not mean anything the particular localities, which may be affected by the matters in question. Interest shared by national government....”

In Mardia Chemical Limited v. Union of India (2004) 4 SCC 311, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India while considering the validity of SARFAESI Act and recovery of non-performing assets by banks and financial institutions in India, recognised the significance of Public Interest and had held as under :

“.............Public interest has always been considered to be above the private interest. Interest of an individual may, to some extent, be affected but it cannot have the potential of taking over the public interest having an impact in the socio-economic drive of the country...........”

The Commission also observed that the framework of the RTI Act, 2005 restricts the jurisdiction of the Commission to provide a ruling on the issues pertaining to access/ right to information and to venture into the merits of a case or redressal of grievance. The Commission in a plethora of decisions including Shri Vikram Singh v. Delhi Police, North East District, CIC/SS/A/2011/001615 dated 17.02.2012 Sh. Triveni Prasad Bahuguna vs. LIC of India, Lucknow CIC/DS/A/2012/000906 dated 06.09.2012, Mr. H. K. Bansal vs. CPIO & GM (OP), MTNL CIC/LS/A/2011/000982/BS/1786 dated 29.01.2013 had held that RTI Act was not the proper law for redressal of grievances/disputes.

3 31 Mar, 2016 Vijayanti vs University Grants Commission

The  appellant   through  her  RTI   application  is  seeking  certified  copies  of  all  medical documents submitted by Mr. and Mrs. X from the time of admission for delivery by Mrs. X till the date of discharge from the Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences, Bhubaneswar which was a recognized institution as part of deemed to be University KIIT, by the respondent/UGC. 

The Commission held that a larger public interest is proved by the appellant to override non disclosure of personal information under section 8(1) (j) as she is alleging that her husband is living in a bigamous relationship during subsistence of a valid marriage with her. Practices of plural marriages during continuation of first marriage is considered a crime under section 494 of the Indian Penal Code. A larger public interest will be served in disclosure of representation made by Mr and Mrs. X in the form of documents signed by them for admission for delivery of child at KIIMS hospital, Bhubneshwar.

The Commission directed the CPIO, UGC to coordinate with its affiliated University i.e., KIIT to provide to the appellant certified copy of patient admission form and related documents submitted by Mr. and Mrs. X at the time of admission for delivering a girl child at KIIMS Hospital.
4 11 Mar, 2016 Mukesh Jain vs Central Board of Secondary Education

The appellant wanted under RTI, number of students appearing in 10th and 12th board examination to be conducted in year 2015, in form of list according to their School, subject and medium of instruction.

The Commission held that there is reasonable apprehension that appellant's demand for voluminous information is unreasonable, intended to serve his commercial interest, without a genuine purpose and might lead to wastage of public resources. CIC held that, the RTI Act cannot be allowed to be abused for serving commercial needs of the appellant publishers so that he uses the data of school children for reaching out to them or their parents as his customers and hence rejected the appeal.
5 25 Feb, 2016 P. C. Pande Vs. DDA, LIG Branch (Housing), New Delhi

Appellant sought information from the respondents on two issues relating to the allotment of flat to his neighbour.. CPIO denied the required information to the appellant by taking a plea under section 8(1) (j) of the RTI Act . Further, CPIO asked the appellant to submits his locus standee. FAA, uphold the views of CPIO. In response to this, the appellant vide his subsequent letter, explained the position regarding the full use of terrace by his neighbour. According to appellant, the allottee of the neighbouring Flat allegedly denying / restricting the legitimate free access of other allottees to the common terrace for maintaining essential service.
CIC directed the respondents to provide the complete and categorical information, issue-wise, to the appellant as per his RTI application, in accordance with the provisions of RTI Act 2005.
6 25 Jan, 2016 M. Padamanabha Reddy Vs. Vijaya Bank, Bangalore

 Appellant,sought information regarding loan defaulters.  The  information sought at point No.1 was regarding the number of defaulters as on 1.4.2014, amount involved and remarks.   At point No.2, the Appellant sought information regarding the names and address of defaulters (with more than Rs. 5.00 crores as the amount due for repayment), Regarding the information at point No.2, the CPIO stated that the public authority had a fiduciary relationship with its account holders and borrowers and there was no public interest warranting disclosure of the information sought by the Appellant. Therefore, he denied the information in response to point No. 2.  
The Commission held that section 8(2) of the RTI Act mandates that even where disclosure of information is protected by the exemptions under section 8(1) of the RTI Act, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to such protected interests, the information must be disclosed under the RTI Act. The respondent could follow the same criteria/categories while providing the information sought by the Appellant regarding defaulters. The CPIO is directed to provide to the Appellant the information sought by him.
7 28 Jun, 2012 Dr. Anshu Agrawal v United India Insurance Co. Ltd

Applicant     submitted   RTI   application   dated   31   May   2011 before   the   CPIO,   United   India   Insurance   Co.   Ltd.,   Aliganj,
Lucknow   to   obtain   information     broadly   through   5   points pertaining to time gap between date of issue of policy bond and date of transfer of the policy bond to the TPA along with copy of the agreement between Company and the TPA. CPIO, with reference to points 1 and 2 denied the information under the provisions of section 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(d) of the Act. 
The Commission held that it is necessary to strike a fine balance between disclosure of information in larger public interest and simultaneously ensure that the privacy of the policy holder is protected as per the provisions of section 8(I)(j) of the RTI Act. The CIC recommended to the CMD Head Office, United India Insurance Co. Ltd., Chennai to give directions to all Branch Managers to put up on the Company's website the following information:
i). Number of the Mediclaim policy (no names are required to be given).
ii). Date of issue of Mediclaim Policy Bond.
iii). Date of transfer of the said policy bond to the TPA
8 21 Mar, 2012 Kulbhushan Jain Vs. SBI, Vijaywada, Hyderabad

Appellant   submitted  RTI   application  before  the CPIO,   SBI,   Hyderabad   seeking   the   details   of   the   defaulting   cases   which were compromised by the public authority during the last three years. CPIO declined the information to the Appellant as the information sought, contains matters of commercial confidence and trade secrets, disclosure of which may harm the competitive position of the entity.
Further information sought is vast and also will disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority as per section 7 (9) of the RTI Act, 2005.
The commission held that there is a larger public interest involved in disclosing the year-wise aggregate settled amount by the banks with the defaulting parties as it will help in transparent functioning of the public authority which is the very objective of the RTI Act. Accordingly Commission directed the respondent to furnish information limited to the total number of entities who have defaulted and the total settled amount.
Total Case uploaded: 8