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RTI >> Judgments >> CIC >> Exemption >> Personal Information
Supreme Court(Personal Information)/ High Courts(Personal Information)
1 CIC/DOP&T/C/2017/129415/SD
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07 May, 2019 Prakash Singh Vs. CPIO, DoPT, North Block, New Delhi – 110001.

Information Sought
The Complainant sought information pertaining to the names, designation, official telephone/fax numbers, official email addresses and complete postal address of all the concerned officials of DoP&T right from Assistant to Secretary who were bound to deal with his representation dated 19.11.2016
addressed to Secretary, DoP&T in connection with Office Memorandum no. 20011/1/2012-Estt. (D) vide dated 04.03.2014; time limit fixed for action to be taken on such representations etc.

Commission observes that the Complainant filed the instant Complaint specifically on the grounds that CPIO has not provided factual information and
sought action against him under Section 20 of RTI Act. However, this bench of the Commission does not find any reason to initiate action under Section 18(2) of RTI Act or Section 20 of RTI Act in the matter as given the nature of the clarification based queries in the RTI application, there is no malafide or deliberate intention apparent on the CPIO’s part in having provided the information as per his wisdom. Moreover, the coordinate bench has also adjudicated in the same case without making any case of deliberate omission on the part of the CPIO.

2 CIC/NINSA/A/2017/183689-BJ
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22 Apr, 2019 Dr. Arvind Kumar Verma Vs. CPIO, National Institute of Ayurveda Madhav Vilas Palace Amer Road, Jaipur – 302002

Information Sought
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 05 points regarding the completion of MD Degree by one Dr. Nirankar Goel from the Respondent Institution, whether he had regularly and continuously pursued the education from 1982 to 1985, etc.

Moreover, in Union of India v. R. Jayachandran WP (C) 3406/2012 dated 19.02.2014 the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi had held that passport details, copies of birth certificate and copies of records of educational qualification are personal information, the disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of individuals unless there was an overbearing public interest in favour of disclosure.

The Commission also referred to the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Central Board of Secondary Education and Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors, SLP(C) NO. 7526/2009 wherein it was held as under:

"Indiscriminate and impractical demands or directions under RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information (unrelated to transparency and accountability in the functioning of public authorities and eradication of corruption) would be counterproductive as it will adversely affect the efficiency of the administration and result in the executive getting bogged down with the non-productive work of collecting and furnishing information. The Act should not be allowed to be misused or abused, to become a tool to obstruct the national development and integration, or to destroy the peace, tranquillity and harmony among its citizens. Nor should it be converted into a tool of oppression or intimidation of honest officials striving to do their duty. The nation does not want a scenario where 75% of the staff of public authorities spends 75% of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties. The threat of penalties under the RTI Act and the pressure of the authorities under the RTI Act should not lead to employees of public authorities prioritising 'information furnishing' at the cost of their normal and regular duties."

Furthermore, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of ICAI vs. Shaunak H. Satya (2011) 8 SCC 781 dated 02.09.2011 had held as under:

“26. We however agree that it is necessary to make a distinction in regard to information intended to bring transparency, to improve accountability and to reduce corruption, falling under Section 4(1)(b) and (c) and other information which may not have a bearing
on accountability or reducing corruption. The competent authorities under the RTI Act will have to maintain a proper balance so that while achieving transparency, the demand for information does not reach unmanageable proportions affecting other public interests, which include efficient operation of public authorities and government, preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information and optimum use of limited fiscal resources”

The Appellant was not present to contest the submissions of the Respondent or to establish the larger public interest in disclosure which outweighs the harm to the protected interests.

3 CIC/CCITM/A/2017/182415-BJ
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18 Apr, 2019 Mr. Subramanian K Ansari Vs. CPIO, Dy. Commissioner of Income Tax

Information Sought
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 06 points regarding Cambata Aviation Pvt. Ltd., certified copy of the balance sheet and P/L Account for the last 10 years from 01.04.2008 to 31.03.2017, whether the IT department had received any correspondence in writing regarding the closure of the aforementioned company, if yes, then certified copies of all the correspondence, till date, etc.

The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the decision of Naresh Kumar Trehan v. Rakesh Kumar Gupta in W.P.(C) 85/2010 & CM Nos.156/2010 & 5560/2011 dated 24.11.2014 while observing that the act of filing returns with the department cannot be construed as public activity held that information contained in the income tax returns would be personal information under Section 8(1)(j) of the Act. The relevant extract of the decision is mentioned below:

“25. Indisputably, Section 8(1)(j) of the Act would be applicable to the information pertaining to Dr Naresh Trehan (petitioner in W.P.(C) 88/2010) and the information contained in the income tax returns would be personal information under Section 8(1)(j) of the Act. However, the CIC directed disclosure of information of Dr Trehan also by concluding that income tax returns and information provided for assessment was in relation to a "public activity." In my view, this is wholly erroneous and unmerited. The act of filing returns with the department cannot be construed as public activity. The expression "public activity" would mean activities of a public nature and not necessarily act done in compliance of a statute. The expression "public activity" would denote activity done for the public and/or in some manner available for participation by public or some section of public. There is no public activity involved in filing a return or an individual pursuing his assessment with the income tax authorities. In this view, the information relating to individual assessee could not be disclosed. Unless, the CIC held that the same was justified "in the larger public interest".

However, the aforesaid observations were made in reference to individual assesses and not incorporated entities such as listed or private limited companies and other legal entities such as societies. The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the matter of Naresh Trehan had clarified on this issue in the following paragraphs:
“20. It has been contended by the petitioners that the expression “personal information” must also extend to information relating to corporate entities. Inasmuch as they may also fall within the definition of expression “person” under the General Clauses Act, 1897 as well as under the Income Tax Act, 1961. However, I am unable to accept this contention for the reason that the expression “personal information” as used in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the Act has to be read in the context of information relating to an individual. A plain reading of the aforesaid clause would indicate that the expression “personal information” is linked with “invasion of privacy of the individual”. The use of the word “the” before the word “individual” immediately links the same with the expression “personal information”.

21. Black’s law dictionary, sixth edition, inter alia, defines the word “personal” as under:- "The word “personal” means appertaining to the person; belonging to an individual; limited to the person; having the nature or partaking of the qualities of human beings, or of movable property."

23. In my view, the aforesaid reasoning would also be applicable to the expression “personal” used in Section 8(1)(j) of the Act. The expression ‘individual’ must be construed in an expansive sense and would include a body of individuals. The said exemption would be available even to unincorporated entities as also private, closely held undertaking which are in substance alter egos of their shareholders. However, the expression individual cannot be used as a synonym for the expression ‘person’. Under the General Clauses Act, 1897 a person is defined to “include any company or association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not”. Thus, whereas a person would include an individual as well as incorporated entities and artificial persons, the expression ‘individual’ cannot be interpreted to include such entities. The context in which, the expression “personal information” is used would also exclude it application to large widely held corporations. While, confidential information of a corporation is exempt from disclosure under Section 8(1) (d) of the Act, there is no scope to exclude other information relating to such corporations under Section 8(1)(j) of the Act as the concept of a personal information cannot in ordinary language be understood to mean information pertaining to a public corporation.”

22. A perusal of the above definition also indicates that the ordinary usage of the word “personal” is in the context of an individual human being and not a corporate entity. The U.S. Supreme Court has also interpreted the expression “personal” to be used in the context of an individual human being and not a corporate entity. In the case of Federal Communications Commission v. AT&T Inc: 2011 US LEXIS 1899 the US Supreme Court considered the meaning of the expression “personal privacy” in the context of the Freedom of Information Act, which required Federal Agencies to make certain records and documents publically available on request. Such disclosure was exempt if the records “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy”. The U.S. Supreme Court held that the expression
“Personal” used in the aforesaid context could not be extended to corporations because the word “personal” ordinarily refers to individuals. The Court held that the expression “personal” must be given its ordinary meaning. The relevant extract of the said judgment is as under: “Person” is a defined term in the statute; “personal” is not. When a statute does not define a term, we typically “give the phrase its ordinary meaning,” [Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S., 559 U.S. 133, 130 S. Ct. 1265, 176 L. Ed. 2d 1, 8 (2010)]. “Personal” ordinarily refers to individuals. We do not usually speak of personal characteristics, personal effects, personal correspondence, personal influence, or personal tragedy as referring to corporations or other artificial entities.
This is not to say that corporations do not have correspondence, influence, or tragedies of their own, only that we do not use the word “personal” to describe them. Certainly, if the chief executive officer of a corporation approached the chief financial officer and said, “I have
something personal to tell you,” we would not assume the CEO was about to discuss company business. Responding to a request for information, an individual might say, “that's personal.” A
company spokesman, when asked for information about the company, would not. In fact, we often use the word “personal” to mean precisely the opposite of business-related: We speak of personal expenses and business expenses, personal life and work life, personal opinion and a company's view.”

Therefore, it is clear from the above observations that the expression “personal information” as used in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the Act has to be read in the context of information relating to an individual and that the ordinary usage of the word “personal” is in the context of an individual human being and not a corporate entity.

Moreover, taking into consideration, the factual background in which the information was sought, it can undoubtedly be construed that the details were required by the Appellant in the larger public interest of the employees working in the said Company. The issue of non-payment of salary/ wages and other statutory dues to employees was certainly a grave matter which could not be brushed aside especially taking into consideration the turmoil and hardships faced by similar employees of Companies such as Kingfisher Airlines and recently Jet Airways which were once considered as behemoths of the Civil Aviation Sector/ Industry in the wake of the losses incurred by such companies.

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...........”

Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties, it is the considered view of the Commission that it cannot be a mute spectator to the pitiable conditions being faced by the employees of the Aviation Company which is seeking shelter under Section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act, 2005. Therefore, considering the sensitivities of the matter as also in the light of the criticality of sustenance issues faced by its employees, the Commission instructs the Respondent to disclose point wise information as held and available with them to the Appellant within a period of 15 days from the date of receipt of this order in the larger public interest.

4 CIC/DENAB/A/2017/167556
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11 Mar, 2019 Shri Ashok Rameshbai Mistry Vs. CPIO, Dena Bank, Surat, Gujarat.

Information sought
The issues under consideration arising out of second appeal dated 18.09.2017 include non-receipt of the following information raised by the appellant through his RTI application dated 20.03.2017and first appeal dated 04.05.2017:
(i) Provide informative list of the Name of NPA Borrower’s loan Account No. along with Capital interest & total remain dues by Bank.
(ii) Provide informative list of the Name of NPA Borrowers along with Case No. failed at Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) at Ahmedabad and any other court of law to recover remain dues from them by Bank.
(iii) I would like to peruse and to take legally certified extract of any portion of above relevant rules & regulation according to my request under RTI Act 2005 and, so you are requested to mutually decide the date, time & venue for such purposes.

The appellant remained absent and respondent Mr. Rahul Priyadarshi, Chief Manager (Legal), Dena Bank, Surat, attended the hearing through video conferencing. The respondent submitted that the information sought by the appellant does not concern him and the appellant did not describe the purpose of seeking such information. The cumulative information relating to NPA accounts was provided to the appellant vide letter dated 12.04.2017.

The Commission after adverting to the facts and circumstances of the case, hearing the respondent and perusal of the records, feels that the respondent has provided part of the desired information to the appellant. The Commission agrees that the remaining information including the names and account number of the NPA burrowers may not be furnished as the same are held in fiduciary capacity. The same are exempted under sub-section (1) (e) of section 8 of the RTI Act. In view of the absence of the appellant to controvert the contentions of the respondent, the response given by the respondent may be accepted. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.
5 CIC/ERAIL/C/2017/115802/SD
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08 Jan, 2019 Ramesh Ojha Vs. CPIO, Sr. Divl. Personnel Officer, Divisional Railway Manager’s Office, Division Howrah

Information requested
The Complainant sought to know personal details including full name, educational qualification as well as copies marks sheet and certificates form matriculation to highest academic degree, copy of date of birth certificate, name of father as per documentary evidence, permanent address as per service record etc of Shri S K Mukherjee, Sr. DEE(G)/ER/HWH Divn and Shri B K Pan, former Sr. SEE/ER/HWH.

Commission observes from the perusal of facts on record that the CPIO’s reply is grossly inappropriate as she has offered inspection of such documents to the Complainant that would amount to disclosure of personal information of third parties exempt under Section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act. In doing so, CPIO has also failed to seek consent of the concerned third parties as per Section 11 of the RTI Act.

In this regard, the Commission draws the attention of CPIO on a judgment dated 31.08.2017 of Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Canara Bank Vs. C S Shyam in Civil Appeal No.22 of 2009; wherein the scope of Section 8(1)(j) of the Act in service matters of government employees has been further exemplified.

Adverting to the aforementioned ratio, CPIO is warned to exercise due caution in future.
6 CIC/PNBNK/A/2017/146670
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07 Jan, 2019 Smt. Bharpai Vs. CPIO, Punjab National Bank, Circle Office, Karnal, Haryana

Information Requested
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Punjab National Bank, Circle Office, Sector-12, Urban Estate, Karnal, Haryana seeking information pertaining to the pension account of her husband, Shri Karan Singh.

The Commission, after hearing the submissions of both parties and perusing the records, observes that the appellant has sought information pertaining to the pension account of Mr. Karan Singh who is alive. Hence, the information sought for relates to the personal information of a third party, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public interest and would cause an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the third party. Hence, its disclosure is exempted under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act. In view of this, no further intervention of the Commission is required in the matter.
7 CIC/IAIRF/A/2018/105306/SD
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03 Jan, 2019 Raju Sindhu Vs CPIO, Directorate of Personal Services

Information requested
The Appellant sought details regarding air warriors conferred with Presidential medals, Chief and Vice Chief of Air Staff commendations as well as out of turn promotions for the Mt. Everest expeditions in 2005 and 2011; air warriors and board of officers who have been given out of turn promotions for the Mt. Everest expedition team in 2005 and 2011 etc.

Except the information covered under section 8(1)(j) of the Act the remaining information was provided by the CPIO.

The CIC while agreeing with the CPIO stated the following :-
Commission observes that apprehensions of the Appellant are devoid of any merit in light of the submissions of the CPIO. Moreover, if the citations are claimed to be available in public domain, Commission advises the Appellant to access this part of the information from the public domain itself. The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
8 CIC/POSTS/A/2018/133951
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31 Jul, 2018 Shri Santosh Singh Vs. CPIO, Department of Posts

Information Sought
The appellant sought information regarding Smt. Malti Devi, W/o Late
Rajendra Prasad Singh who was appointed on 24.02.1987 on compassionate grounds after her husband’s death. He specifically sought for the husband’s name given by her at the time of her retirement on 08.02.2015; certified copies of her educational qualification; during her service whether she intimated about second marriage or not, if yes, details of the same etc. The CPIO on 15.02.2018 provided information on point nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5 and on point no. 2 the information sought was denied as her personal information. The appellant approached this Commission.

Mr. S.P. Rai, Suptd. of Offices and CPIO, submitted that the information sought by the appellant pertains to 1987 and in not currently available at their office. He also stated that since the appellant sought information such as name of
Smt Malti Devi’s husband and details about her husband’s second marriage, the Public Authority sought consent from Smt. Malti Devi, as per procedure under Section 11(1) of RTI Act, as that was third party information, and she objected to disclosure.

The applicant claimed that he had relationship with her husband and also entangled in property disputes. He alleged that after death of their relative, his wife Malti Devi took his job and after some time, married to another person. After considering the contentions of the appellant, the Commission concludes that appellant has no right to information about the public servant Smt Malti Devi’s private life.

This case stands as an example of right invocation of Section 8(1)(j), which the Commission rarely came across. Amidst thousands of cases of misuse of Section 8(1)(j), this CPIO has rightly rejected the information request to properly secure the right to privacy of his retired colleague. A woman who took the job under compassionate grounds after death of her husband will not lose her right to remarry, which is again part of her cherished right to life. As wife, she is entitled to the property of her husband, as per succession laws and also the job under this category as per the rules and policy of public authority. The contention of appellant that she cannot marry another person as she was holding the job of her first husband, or should disclose whose name she gave as her husband at the time of
retirement is illegal. Her marriage or remarriage has nothing to do with the public employment, public activity, and sans any public interest. This RTI application is totally devoid of any public purpose and absolutely motivated by selfish material interests.
9 CIC/SBIND/A/2017/103744
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19 Apr, 2018 Ashok Pandit Vs CPIO, SBI, Khagaria, Bihar

ISSUE : The applicant sought the total number of KCC loans sanctioned from 5/8/16 till date along with the certified copy of the Land Possession Certificate and land receipts. No information was provided by the CPIO.
DECISION : Total number of KCC loans sanctioned for the period requested for to be given. However, LPC and land receipts are personal information of the third parties i.e the borrowers which is held by the bank in a fiduciary capacity the disclosure of which is exempted under sections 8(1)(e) and (j) of the RTI Act,2005.
10 CIC/PMOIN/A/2017/124760
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19 Feb, 2018 Soni Eramath Vs CPIO, PMO

ISSUE : The applicant sought information as to whether Hon’ble President of India has administered the oath of office to the Prime Minister of India in the name of 'Mr Narendra Modi'.
The respondent stated that they had given a reply to the appellant vide their letter dated 6/1/17 indicating that the oath was administered to the Hon’ble Prime minister of India as per the provisions of the Constitution of India. The respondent further stated that Aadhar card/voter card of the Hon’ble PM cannot be revealed as per exemption under section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act, 2005
DECISION : The action/steps taken by the respondents in giving response to the RTI application is satisfactory.
11 CIC/SA/A/2016/001710/MP, CIC/SA/A/2016/001715/MP
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05 Dec, 2017 Ajay Kumar Vs N I T Patna

ISSUE : The appellant had sought for details of medical bills and LTC availed by Dr Ashok , Director NIT as per proforma provided by the appellant. Not satisfied with the information provided by the CPIO, the appellant filed an appeal before the FAA. The FAA did not seem to have adjudicated on the appeal.
DECISION : The Commission directed the CPIO to provide to the applicant only the total amount of LTC claimed by Dr Ashok, Director NIT as per available record, excluding the names of family members and complying with the provisions of the RTI Act within 7 days.
12 CIC/CBODT/C/2016/299248/BJ CIC/CBODT/C/2016/299253/BJ CIC/CBODT/C/2016/299257/BJ CIC/CBODT/C/2016/299258/BJ CIC/CBODT/C/2016/300147/BJ CIC/CBODT/C/2016/300149/BJ CIC/CBODT/C/2016/300150/BJ CIC/DITIN/C/2016/299250/BJ
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31 Jul, 2017 Mr. Radha Raman Tripathy Vs CPIO, Income Tax Department, Jharkhand

The Complainant vide his RTI application sought information on 02 points regarding total number of CAs and Advocates against whom cases had been filed before their disciplinary authorities for cancellation of practicing licenses, list of such cases, etc. The Commission observed that the responses provided by the CPIO were in total contradiction and disregard to the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. Hence, the Commission, directs the CCIT, Ranchi to conduct an enquiry either by himself or through a nominee officer of senior rank and send an enquiry report to the Commission. It was observed that the action taken by the CPIO in relation to the information sought needs to be examined carefully by the CCIT, Ranchi so that the fundamental right of the information seeker is fully respected and protected.
13 CIC/POSTS/A/2017/312558
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31 Jul, 2017 N J Patil vs PIO, Department of Posts

The appellant sought information on copies of documents indicating delivery of register letters to the addressee of Chorwad, Tal, Parola, Dist. Jalgaon by post of Chorwad or of Parola. CPIO denied information under section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act, 2005 and the same was upheld by the FAA. Being dissatisfied, the appellant approached this Commission. The Commission directs the respondent authority to provide complete information to the appellant and warns the CPIO not to further misuse the exemption clause Section 8 of RTI Act, within 15 days from this date. The Commission directs the CPIO, Superintendent of Post Office, Jalgaon Postal Division, to show-cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed against him for illegally denying the information to the appellant.
14 CIC/VS/A/2015/003304/SD
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31 Jul, 2017 Md Matior Rahman Vs. CPIO, HQ 21 Mtn Div, PIN – 908421 C/O 56 APO

The Appellant sought various information through 27 points regarding the management, functioning, curriculum, teaching, non-teaching staff etc of Red Horns Pubic School.

CPIO is directed to provide information which is available with him/her or which he/she can access from management of the School as per the queries of the RTI Application subject to the exemptions of Section 8 of the RTI Act. CPIO shall particularly invoke Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act for denying personal details of third parties like academic qualifications, permanent address etc. sought vide query no. 7 and 15 of the RTI Application. Since as per above observations, RTI queries are largely unspecific, CPIO is not obligated to provide clarifications or opinions or such information which is not available in material form. In such cases, CPIO shall state categorically that information cannot be provided.
15 CIC/DDATY/A/2017/108688
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31 Jul, 2017 Shri Rajinder Kumar Mahajan Vs. PIO, DDA

Vide RTI application dated 22.03.2016 addressed to CPIO, Dy. Director (CS), the appellant sought information regarding complaint filed by the Member of NPSC Coop Group Housing Society Ltd. Dwarka with Chief Engineer, DDA, Dwarka for taking action against the Management Committee/Society for carrying out repair and rehabilitation of society building structure.

The Commission held that the issue involved requires due attention of the civic authorities as it is a complaint regarding act of endangering the security and safety of the residents of the society in question. The respondent public authority shall take appropriate steps to conduct inspection of the site and furnish an action taken report clearly bringing out the extent of damage of building under reference. Needful be done within 5 weeks of receipt of this order.
Total Case uploaded: 179