Documents submitted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with the application for getting a passport and its renewal, cannot be disclosed as these are “personal information”, the CIC has held.
The case relates to an RTI application filed by G M Chauhan, a member of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee, seeking copies of the material submitted by Modi for obtaining his first passport and subsequent renewal or fresh application for obtaining a diplomatic passport.
The passport office had earlier refused to share the documents, saying it is “personal information” which cannot be provided under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) R K Mathur has said in his order that Chauhan could not substantiate the larger public interest for the disclosure of “personal information”.
Chauhan had argued that since the information sought by him relates to the public life of the erstwhile chief minister of Gujarat and the prime minister of India, its disclosure is in public interest and outweighs any “possible harm or injury” caused to the interest of a third party (Modi).
The information was very much in public domain as part of the forms for candidature for assembly and parliamentary elections, he said.
Chauhan also said that the procedure of Section 11 of the RTI Act, which calls for consulting the person about whom the information has been sought, has not been followed by the Central Public Information Officer of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the passport office.
The MEA said that the section can only be invoked if the CPIO “intends” to disclose personal information.
Once the CPIO is satisfied that the information sought is to be denied, third party consultation is not required, it said.
“The appellant has stated that the information is in public interest. Section 8(1)(j) permits release of personal information if larger public interest justifies it.
“In this regard the appellant has stated that ‘Modi is a public figure, hence the information should be released’. However, this argument in no way establishes a larger public interest,” CIC Mathur has said.
Earlier, Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu had directed the inspection of Delhi University records for the year in which Modi is said to have passed out.
After the order, the Chief Information Commissioner had divested Acharyulu from hearing matters related to Delhi University and the Ministry of Human Resources Development.