Sunday, 5 January 2020

Whether oath taken by high court judge can be disclosed under RTI?

Respondent No.1 herein in the application filed under Section 6(1)
of the Act of 2005 had only stated that he wish to have the copy of
the oath taken and subscribed by the Hon'ble Judges of the High
Court which is exempted from being disclosed under Section 8(1)(j)
of the Act of 2005, as respondent No.1 herein did not disclose any
public interest much less larger public interest involved in seeking
such information of the Hon'ble Judges in the said application nor
was any finding recorded by the second appellate authority i.e. the
Chhattisgarh State Information Commission as to the involvement
of any larger public interest in directing supply of such information
to respondent No.1 under Section 19(8)(a)(i) of the Act of 2005.
The application as filed by respondent No.1 is blissfully silent in that
regard. There is no averment in the application, how the public
interest requires disclosure of such information and the application

is silent in this regard.Therefore, in the considered opinion of this Court, the application
filed by respondent No.1 under Section 6 of the Act of 2005 was
bereft and fails to fulfill the requirement under Section 8(1)(j) of the
Act of 2005 and thus, grant of such information by the learned
Information Commission simply holding that oath is taken by the
Hon'ble Judges in public in presence of respectable persons as
such, the information sought for is granted under Sections 8 and
19(8)(a)(iv) of the Act of 2005, runs contrary to the law and is liable
to be quashed.
HIGH COURT OF CHHATTISGARH, BILASPUR
Writ Petition (Art. 227) No.19 of 2017

Order delivered on: 5-8-2019
The Public Information Officer, High Court of Chhattisgarh, Bilaspur, Vs Arun Kumar Gupta, 
Hon'ble Shri Justice Sanjay K. Agrawal


1. The jurisdiction of this Court under Article 227 of the Constitution of
India has been invoked by the Public Information Officer of the High
Court of Chhattisgarh (for short, 'this Court') calling in question
legality, validity and correctness of the order passed by respondent
No.2 herein (Chhattisgarh State Information Commission) by which
the Chhattisgarh State Information Commission (for short, 'the
Information Commission') has set aside the order passed by the
Public Information Officer as well as by the appellate authority and
directed under Section 19(8)(a)(i) of the Right to Information Act,
2005 (for short, 'the Act of 2005') to provide the information sought
2
for by the information seeker / respondent No.1 herein, dubbing the
order as arbitrary and contrary to the provisions contained in
Section 8(1)(e) of the Act of 2005.
2. The information seeker / respondent No.1 herein made an
application to the Public Information Officer of this Court invoking
Section 6(1) of the Act of 2005 seeking copy of oath taken and
subscribed by Hon'ble Mr. Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra and
Hon'ble Mr. Justice N.K. Agarwal (now His Lordship has demitted
the office). The Public Information Officer rejected the said
application in light of exemption provided under Section 8(1)(e) of
the Act of 2005 which was affirmed by the first appellate authority in
an appeal preferred by respondent No.1 herein by order dated 3-
12-2015. However, the second appellate authority / the Information
Commission interfered with the order passed by the two authorities
as stated above and directed for furnishing the information sought
for by respondent No.1 herein i.e. copy of oath taken and
subscribed by the two Hon'ble Judges of this Court as mentioned
above under Sections 8 and 19(8)(a)(i) of the Act of 2005. Feeling
aggrieved against that order this writ petition has been filed in which
the order passed by the Information Commission i.e. the second
appellate authority has been called in question principally on the
ground that it is violative of Section 8(1)(e) of the Act of 2005 and
further on the ground that the two authorities had already satisfied
that the larger public interest is not involved warranting the
disclosure of such information and the Information Commission
ought not to have interfered with by the orders of the two authorities
(that is the Public Information Officer and the appellate authority).
3
3. No return has been filed by the respondents though opportunities
were granted to them.
4. Mr. Prafull N. Bharat, learned counsel appearing for the petitioner,
would submit that the learned Information Commission is absolutely
unjustified in granting the application filed by respondent No.1 /
information seeker by setting aside the concurrent finding recorded
by the two authorities in which it has been clearly held that such an
information is clearly barred from disclosure of such information and
is exempted by the provisions contained in Section 8(1)(e) or 8(1)(j)
of the Act of 2005, as such, the impugned order directing the
disclosure of such information being contrary to law is liable to be
set aside.
5. No one has appeared for respondent No.1, though served with
notice of this writ petition.
6. Mr. Shyam Sunder Lal Tekchandani, learned counsel appearing for
respondent No.2, would support the impugned order and submit
that the impugned order is strictly in accordance with law and no
interference is called for in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 227
of the Constitution of India.
7. I have heard learned counsel for the parties, considered their rival
submissions made herein-above and went through the record with
utmost circumspection.
8. The question for consideration would be, whether respondent No.1
is entitled to get the copy of oath taken and subscribed by the
Hon'ble Judges of this Court which they have taken before they
have entered upon their office as prescribed under Article 219 of the Constitution of India according to the form set out in Clause VIII of
Third Schedule of the Constitution of India or it is protected under
the provisions contained in either Section 8(1)(e) of the Act of 2005
or Section 8(1)(j) of the Act of 2005?
9. In order to decide the plea raised at the Bar, it would be appropriate
to notice the provisions contained in Sections 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(j) of
the Act of 2005 which read as follows: -
“8. Exemption from disclosure of information.—(1)
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there
shall be no obligation to give any citizen,—
(a) xxx xxx xxx
(b) xxx xxx xxx
(c) xxx xxx xxx
(d) xxx xxx xxx
(e) information available to a person in his fiduciary
relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied
that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of
such information;
(f) xxx xxx xxx
(g) xxx xxx xxx
(h) xxx xxx xxx
(i) xxx xxx xxx
(j) information which relates to personal information
the disclosure of which has no relationship to any
public activity or interest, or which would cause
unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual
unless the Central Public Information Officer or the
State Public Information Officer or the appellate
authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the
larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such
information:
Provided that the information, which cannot be
denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not
be denied to any person.”
10. From a careful perusal of the aforesaid provision, Section 8(1)(j) of  the Act of 2005, it is quite vivid that the exemption would attract in
two contingencies namely, (a) if the information is personal in
nature and has no relationship to any public activity or interest, and
(b) furnishing of the same would cause unwarranted invasion of
privacy of an individual. However, these exemptions are subject to
the opinion that may be formed by the Central or State Public
Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be,
that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such
information.
11. The conflict between the right to personal privacy and the public
interest in the disclosure of personal information stands recognized
by the legislature in terms of exempting purely personal information
under Section 8(1)(j) of the Act of 2005. Under such exemption
clause, the disclosure may be refused if the request pertains to
personal information, the disclosure of which has no relation to any
public activity or interest or which would cause unwarranted
invasion of the privacy of the individual.
12. In the matter of Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central
Information Commr.1, the petitioner therein sought certain
information regarding an employee who was employed as an
Enforcement Officer in Sub-Regional Office, Akola. The information
sought for was not granted by the authorities including the High
Court against which the SLP was taken in which Their Lordships of
the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal upholding the order
passed by the High Court and held as under: -
“12. We are in agreement with the CIC and the courts
below that the details called for by the petitioner i.e.
1 (2013) 1 SCC 212

copies of all memos issued to the third respondent,
show-cause notices and orders of censure/punishment,
etc. are qualified to be personal information as defined in
clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. The
performance of an employee/officer in an organisation 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. Of
course, in a given case, 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 the petitioner
cannot claim those details as a matter of right.
13. 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 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.”
13. Similar is the proposition of law laid down by the Supreme Court in
the matter of R.K. Jain v. Union of India and another2. The
judgment of the Supreme Court in Girish Ramchandra
Deshpande (supra) and R.K. Jain (supra) has been followed
recently by the Supreme Court in the matter of Canara Bank Rep.
By its Deputy Gen. Manager v. C.S. Shyam and another3 and it
was held as under:-
“14. In our considered opinion, the aforementioned
principle of law applies to the facts of this case on all
force. It is for the reasons that, firstly, the information
sought by respondent No.1 of individual employees
working in the Bank was personal in nature; secondly, it
was exempted from being disclosed under Section 8(j) of
the Act and lastly, neither respondent No.1 disclosed any
public interest much less larger public interest involved in
seeking such information of the individual employee and
nor any finding was recorded by the Central Information
2 (2013) 14 SCC 794
3 (2017) SCC Online SC 1023

Commission and the High Court as to the involvement of
any larger public interest in supplying such information to
respondent No.1.
15. It is for these reasons, we are of the considered view
that the application made by respondent No.1 under
Section 6 of the Act was wholly misconceived and was,
therefore, rightly rejected by the Public Information
Officer and Chief Public Information Officer whereas
wrongly allowed by the Central Information Commission
and the High Court.”
14. Reverting to the facts of the present case in light of the aforesaid
principles of law in the aforesaid judgments, it is quite vivid that
respondent No.1 herein sought information about the copy of the
oath taken and subscribed by the two Hon'ble Judge of this Court
under Article 219 of the Constitution of India which they have taken
before they have entered upon their office according to the form set
out in Clause VIII of Third Schedule of the Constitution.
Respondent No.1 herein in the application filed under Section 6(1)
of the Act of 2005 had only stated that he wish to have the copy of
the oath taken and subscribed by the Hon'ble Judges of the High
Court which is exempted from being disclosed under Section 8(1)(j)
of the Act of 2005, as respondent No.1 herein did not disclose any
public interest much less larger public interest involved in seeking
such information of the Hon'ble Judges in the said application nor
was any finding recorded by the second appellate authority i.e. the
Chhattisgarh State Information Commission as to the involvement
of any larger public interest in directing supply of such information
to respondent No.1 under Section 19(8)(a)(i) of the Act of 2005.
The application as filed by respondent No.1 is blissfully silent in that
regard. There is no averment in the application, how the public
interest requires disclosure of such information and the application

is silent in this regard.
15. Therefore, in the considered opinion of this Court, the application
filed by respondent No.1 under Section 6 of the Act of 2005 was
bereft and fails to fulfill the requirement under Section 8(1)(j) of the
Act of 2005 and thus, grant of such information by the learned
Information Commission simply holding that oath is taken by the
Hon'ble Judges in public in presence of respectable persons as
such, the information sought for is granted under Sections 8 and
19(8)(a)(iv) of the Act of 2005, runs contrary to the law and is liable
to be quashed.
16. Accordingly, the impugned order passed by respondent No.2
directing furnishing of information with regard to the oath taken and
subscribed by the two Hon'ble Judges of this Court, is hereby
quashed.
17. The writ petition is allowed to the extent sketched herein-above. No
order as to cost(s).
Sd/-
(Sanjay K. Agrawal)

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