Privacy trumps transparency in the new data protection bill and that’s bad news for democracyAbdul Gh Lone 1 December 2022 0 COMMENTS
Since its enactment, the Right to Information Act, 2005, has ushered in an era of transparency in governance. While this legislation has cast a bright light on the many dark deeds of the Indian state, it has often been stopped in its tracks by the many exceptions carved out in Section 8 of the legislation.
This provision lists a series of exceptions to the right to information. One of these, Section 8(1)(j), allows public information officers to deny requests for personal information that have no connection to public activity and which can cause unwarranted invasion of privacy unless the applicant can demonstrate that a larger public interest justified the disclosure of such information.
In its existing form, Section 8(1)(j) has been successfully deployed by public information officers to deny service records, assets, complaints and disciplinary proceedings pertaining to bureaucrats. In 2012, a Supreme Court bench of Justice KS Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra upheld this interpretation in the case Girish Deshpande vs Central Information Commission. In this case, the applicant had asked for information about a bureaucrat. The Supreme Court stated in pertinent part:
The performance of an employee/officer in an organization is primarily a matter between the employee and the employer and normally those aspects are governed…