Delhi High Court directs President's Secretariat

The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed the President's Secretariat to provide informationto an RTI activist about donations made by the President over the years out of public funds, dismissing argument that the disclosure will impinge on the privacy of the country's First Citizen and the recipients.

The Court also directed the Secretariat to put up all details about the donations on its website at the earliest. “….. we not only direct the CPIO to provide this information to the appellant within 15 working days of receiving this order, we also direct him to take steps to publish such details on the website of the President Secretariat at the earliest.”

Justice Sanghi pronounced the judgment on a petition by the President's Secretariat against an order by the Central Information Commission (CIC) directing the Chief Public Information Officer of the Secretariat to provide the information sought by applicant Nitish Kumar Tripathi.

The Information Officer had refused to provide information to the applicant on the ground that it was personal information of President and the disclosure of the names, addresses and amounts of the donations made would impinge on the privacy of the recipients.

Additional Solicitor-General A.S. Chandhiok argued that the CIC had gone against it own earlier order refusing information about the beneficiaries of the Prime Minister's Relief Fund.

However, Justice Sanghi dismissed the argument saying that a parallel could not be drawn between the two funds as the Prime Minister's Relief Fund had been created from donations made voluntarily by private persons or institutions while the fund at the disposal of the President for making donations had been created out of public money — taxes and duties, cess and services charges — levied on the citizens.

Justice Sanghi also dismissed the argument that disclosure of the information sought would compromise the privacy of the recipients, saying that the applicant had sought only their names, addresses and the amounts donated to them, not the exact facts as well the circumstances which compelled them to go for the donation.

“Every citizen is entitled to know as to how the money, collected by the State from him by exaction, has been utilised. Merely because the person making the donations happens to be the President of India is no ground to withhold the said information. The President of India is not immune from the application of the Act. What is important is that it is a public fund which is being donated by the President, and not his/her private fund placed at his/her disposal for being distributed/donated amongst the needy and deserving persons,” said Justice Sanghi while dismissing the petition saying that “I find no merit in this petition and dismiss the same”.

Keywords: public fundsRTI

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