Ex-CIC erred in declaring property statements as confidential?
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Last Updated: Tuesday, February 08, 2011, 18:16
New Delhi: Has former Chief Information Commissioner A N Tiwari erred in deciding that property statements of government officials are exempt from disclosure under the RTI Act?

If the view of Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi is to be taken into account, he did. Gandhi has now placed it on record that provisions of law were not considered by Tiwari in one of his judgements, while declaring property statements of officials confidential.

"With due respect to the observations of Information Commissioner A N Tiwari, this Commission noted that in the Surendra Sharma case, the disclosure of property returns of an employee of the respondent company was exempted merely on the basis that the information was confidential and given on the assurance that the confidentiality would not be breached.

"No specific exemption contained in Section eight of the RTI Act was relied upon either by the PIO of the respondent company or by the then Information Commissioner in arriving at the decision," Gandhi noted in one of his decisions.

Gandhi was listening to the plea of an RTI applicant who had wanted to know from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi the details of unauthorised constructions and internal designs of some houses in Defence Colony area with specific references to certain properties.

The information was denied to him as MCD said it was third party information and cannot be provided under the transparency law.

During the hearing, parties which objected to disclosure cited the decisions by the then Information Commissioner A N Tiwari in which it was observed that property returns were rightly withheld from disclosure as the information was personal to the third party.

In the decision, Tiwari had said property details are submitted confidentially on an assurance that its confidentiality shall not be breached except under specific circumstances such as disciplinary enquiries.

After listening to the arguments, Gandhi rejected reliance on the said decision saying the Commission cannot take upon itself the role of the legislature and import new exemptions not provided in the RTI Act.

"The Commission cannot, on its own, impose exemptions and substitute its own views for those of the Parliament...

"It is well established that information can be exempted from disclosure in accordance with the specific exemptions contained in Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act only, which does not appear to have been done in the case as 'confidentiality' is not stipulated as an exemption under the RTI Act," Gandhi said while allowing the disclosure of outer designs of those properties.


First Published: Tuesday, February 08, 2011, 18:16

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