Delhi High Court Exempts Medical Reimbursement of S C Judges under RTI


Appellants: The Registrar, Supreme Court of India Vs. Respondent: Subhash Chandra Agarwal

W.P. (C) 1842/2012 & CM No. 4033/2012

Decided On:19.12.2014

Hon'ble Judges/Coram: Vibhu Bakhru, Judge, Delhi High Court

Facts in Nutshell:

On 25.10.2010, respondent no.1 –Subhash Chandra Agarwal filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (hereafter the 'Act') with the Central Public Information Officer, Department of Justice, Government of India, inter alia, seeking the following information:-

"5. Details of medical-facilities availed by individual judges (including of their family-members) of Supreme Court in last three years mentioning also expenses on private treatment in India or abroad. Honourable Delhi High Court has recently ruled (probably on 11.10.2010) that "The information on the expenditure of the government money in an official capacity cannot be termed as personal information."). I do not want information on nature of diseases but only detailed information about expenses on medical-facilities on judges and their families at public-expenses."

The application on the above said point was transferred to CPIO under Section [6(3)] of the RTI Act, 2005. By an order dated 02.02.2011, CPIO rejected the said application on the ground that the information as sought for by the respondent is personal information and is exempted from disclosure under Section [8(1)(j)] of the RTI Act, 2005 and in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Central Public Information Officer, SCI & Anr. v.Subhash Chandra Agarwal, Civil Appeal No. 10044/2010, decided on 26.11.2010, there is a stay on the disclosure of the information relating to the judges. The respondent preferred an appeal (No.47/2011) before the First Appellate Authority (hereafter 'FAA') challenging the order dated 02.02.2011. By an order dated 07.03.2011, First Appellate Authority dismissed the appeal.

Decision by CIC :

The respondent, thereafter, preferred an appeal before the CIC challenging order of the FAA dated 07.03.2011. By an order dated 03.08.2011, the CIC directed CPIO to provide "the total amount of medical expenses of individual judges reimbursed by the Supreme Court during the last three years, both in India and abroad, wherever applicable. The CIC also directed CPIO to bring the order to the notice of the competent authority in the Supreme Court for ensuring that arrangements are made in future for maintaining such information.

By an order dated 30.08.2011, CPIO provided the total amount reimbursed on medical treatment from the budget grant for three years in respect of Judges (sitting & retired) and employees of the Supreme Court. CPIO also informed that the judge-wise information was not maintained as the same was not required to be maintained. Dissatisfied with the reply of CPIO, the respondent filed an appeal before the CIC for compliance of order dated 03.08.2011 passed by the CIC. The said appeal was disposed of by the impugned order. Aggrieved by the same appellants -- The Registrar, Supreme Court of India field an appeal before High Court.

Decision by High Court:

Court held that information relating to the medical records would be personal information which is exempt from disclosure under Section [8(1)(j)] of the RTI Act, 2005. The medical bills would indicate the treatment and/or medicines required by individuals and this would clearly be an invasion of the privacy.

Since the medical records are excluded from the purview of the RTI Act, 2005 by virtue of the non obstante clause contained in the opening words of Section [8(1)] of the RTI Act, 2005 the question of issuing any directions under Section [19(8)(a)(iv)] of the RTI Act, 2005 to facilitate access to such information does not arise.

Further, the extent of medical reimbursement to an individual is also, in one sense, personal information as it would disclose the extent of medical services availed by an individual. Thus, unless a larger public interest is shown to be served, there is no necessity for providing such information.

The basic financial data can be accessed to generate innumerable reports depending on the exigencies and requirements of an organization. A direction by the CIC to maintain such records to generate reports, merely because an individual information seeker has sought such information, is not warranted as the same would multiply with each information seeker seeking information in different form. A direction to maintain records in a particular manner must be occasioned by considerations of public interest, which is admittedly absent in this case. Accordingly, the petition was allowed by High Court and the impugned order passed by CIC was set aside.

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Kush Kalra

Kush Kalra
*Kush is a practicing lawyer at Delhi High Court. He graduated from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab, India in 2012 and has authored a total of 10 books on Law within a year - a National Record!

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