The Delhi High Court has set aside an order of the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) directing the Centre to disclose the details relating to the passport held by an RTI applicant’s estranged husband. Justice Yashwant Varma said the CIC order could neither be countenanced nor upheld. The court delivered its verdict on a petition by the Ministry of External Affairs challenging the CIC order of May 2020. “This court is of the considered opinion that the order of the Chief Information Commissioner, directing the petitioner to make the requisite disclosures can neither be countenanced nor upheld,” said the court in a recent order. “The impugned order of 15 May 2020 shall consequently stand quashed and set aside,” it added. The court, while passing its order, relied on an earlier high court decision which emphasised on the presence of a “public interest element” for the disclosure of personal information under the RTI Act. The RTI applicant had filed an application seeking details relating to the passport held by her estranged husband, marriage certificate, address proof, ID proof and other related documents.
The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) said since the disclosure as sought would constitute “third party information”, it is not liable to be provided in terms of section 8(1)(j) (which deals with certain exemptions) of the RTI Act. The order was upheld on first appeal before the appellate authority. However, the CIC rejected the view taken by the CPIO and the first appellate authority and directed the MEA to provide information as sought by the wife in her RTI application.