Right to Information: What Information?

19 Jan

Since 2005, India has witnessed a gradual change in the operation of governmental structures due to the rapid and powerful use of the Right to Information Act.  Recently, the Delhi High Court ruled that even the office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India comes within the purview of the RTI Act.  As a recent article (‘Right to Privacy‘) points out however, there is a careful balancing act required between the Right to Information and the Right to privacy.

This is especially relevant in the case of the recent order of the Chief Information Commissioner stating that “Parliament has not codified the right to privacy so far, hence, in balancing the Right to Information of Citizens and the individual’s Right to Privacy, the Citizen’s Right to Information would be given greater weightage.’’

The CIC said this in a case where it basically stated that an individual’s tax records can also be obtained by filing an RTI, as the right to information has greater weight than a person’s right to privacy!!!  The Delhi High Court has thankfully stayed this decision’s effect, and will hear the matter in detail this month.

What is disturbing is that though this decision of the CIC is alarming, it was given to help an applicant bring to light large-scale tax evasion (allegedly 500 crores) by Escorts Ltd, Escorts Heart Institute and Research Center (EHIRC), Big Apple and AAA Portfolio.  So now, the Delhi High Court may give a better judgement on a point of law, but doing so will probably help these above-named industries get away with large-scale tax evasion.

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