Official expenses of babus not personal info: HC

Information on official expenses incurred by a government officer was not "personal", the Delhi High Court has ruled.

New Delhi: Information on official expenses incurred by a government officer was not "personal", the Delhi High Court has ruled directing the Centre to disclose details of alleged misuse of public funds between 2005-06 by Chitra Narayanan, the then Indian Ambassador to Turkey.

"The information on the expenditure of the government money by a government official in an official capacity cannot be termed as personal information," the court said while
dismissing the Ministry of External Affairs`s appeal challenging a direction of the Central Information Commission(CIC).

Upholding the CIC`s order, Justice S Muralidhar rejected the Ministry`s arugment that disclosure of the details could be misused by the applicant. "No authority can proceed on an assumption that an information ordered to be disclosed will be misused. The mere
expression of an apprehension of possible misuse of information cannot justify non-disclosure of information, " the court observed.

The High Court said the information sought by Balendra Kumar, the applicant through counsel Prashant Bhushan vis-a-vis the expendidture by the then envoy, was not personal
and there was no ground to interfere with the order of the CIC.

Kumar had sought information from the government relating to a complaint in March 2007 to the Central Vigilance Commission(CVC) which had referred the matter to the Central Vigilance Officer (CVO) in the Ministry for an inquiry against the Ambassador over alleged misuse of government funds and corruption at the Indian Embassy in Ankara.

"This court concurs with the observations of the CIC that in the circumstances the information sought was not personal to the Ambassador. The complaint itself is about matters relating to her in an official capacity," the court said.

The Ministry had earlier refused to disclose the information saying the case has been closed by the department`s CVO with a noting that it may have been procedural error but without any financial loss to the government.

Being aggrieved by the MEA`s refusal, Kumar had approached the CIC which had on September 14, 2009, allowed his petition and directed the MEA to provide all information to him, following which the Centre appealed in the High Court.


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