Ex-CIC erred in declaring property statements as confidential?

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 8, 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.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 18:16

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