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The Supreme Court has held that service details of employees fall within the ambit of ‘personal information’ under Section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, and that such details cannot be furnished unless any connection with larger public interest is shown. This was held by allowing the appeal filed by Canara Bank Ltd. in Canara Bank & Anr. v. M. Mahesh Kumar, against the judgment of the Kerala High Court.

An employee of the bank had sought information regarding transfer and postings of entire clerical staff during the period from 01.01.2002 to 31.07.2006. The Public Information Officer declined to furnish information stating it was personal information exempted under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act.

On appeal, the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) directed the Bank to furnish the information as sought for. Against the order of the CIC, the Bank approached the High Court. The Single Bench and the Division Bench concurrently held against the Bank, dismissing the writ petition.

On appeal, the Supreme Court was of the view that the application under Section 6 (Request for obtaining information) of the RTI Act was wrongly allowed by the Central Information Commission and the High Court.

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 by the service rules which fall under the expression “personal information”, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or public interest. On the other hand, the disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of that individual.

If the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information, appropriate orders could be passed but one cannot claim those details as a matter of right.

The details disclosed by a person in his income tax returns are “personal information” which stand exempted from disclosure under clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act, unless it involves a larger public interest and the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.

Sanchayeeta Das

Legal Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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