HC tells I&B Ministry to investigate disclosure of RTI applicants’ details

The Bombay High Court  

The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) to conduct an inquiry into how personal details of more than 4,000 Right to Information (RTI) applicants, including Saket Gokhale, were made public on its official website.

A Division Bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Milind Jadhav directed the secretary of the I&B Ministry to inquire into this issue within three months failing which Mr. Gokhale has the liberty to approach this court again. The Bench also directed the ministry to pay Mr. Gokhale ₹25,000 towards litigation costs.

The Bench was hearing a petition filed by Mr. Gokhale stating that he had filed an RTI application seeking details on the government of India’s “Bharat Ki Laxmi” campaign with the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs, in October 2019. In November, the RTI application was uploaded on the I&B website along with his contact details. They also became available on search engines like Google.

In July, 2020, after he filed a petition before the Allahabad High Court seeking a stay on the inauguration of Ram Janambhoomi amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, he started receiving several calls and messages, “threatening, harassing, abusing, and intimidating him”. Mr. Gokhale thus sought ₹50 lakh as compensation from the I&B Ministry for displaying his details on its website.

While disposing of the plea, the court granted Mr. Gokhale the liberty to approach the court again if the inquiry was not initiated by the ministry.

Advocate Rui Rodrigues, representing the I&B Ministry, told the court that disciplinary action had already been initiated.

To this, the Bench said that such action was initiated “on November 3 after the court reserved its order (on the plea)”.

In the last hearing, Mr. Rodrigues had said, “Petitioner’s details were disclosed on the website in compliance with an office memorandum of 2014 wherein proactive disclosure of details of RTI applications, appeals etc. was mandated.”

He had also submitted that after receiving Mr. Gokhale’s letter protesting the move to upload personal details alleging harassment as a result, the ministry of 2016 memorandum was followed. “But, until then, it was too late and details of 4,474 applicants had already been uploaded on the official website. The same was removed on August 1, 2020,” Mr. Rodrigues had said.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 8:23:45 PM |

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