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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Is Conf Report of a Govt. employee personal: Delhi HC moved

Public servants who do public duty need to be more transparent in public view, feels the silent majority in India. This is what prompted a citizen to raise this issue in a Court and seeks its opinion in this matter.
Annual Confidential Report (ACR) of a public servant is a 'personal' or 'public' document? Shouldn't the government make it available to the entire nation in public interest? The Delhi High Court on Friday heard a plea seeking all performance appraisal of all government officials (popularly known as ACRs) be made public under RTI Act.
ACRs have been held as 'confidential' for a long time now. They, however, may not remain so anymore, as the bench of acting Chief Justice Sikri and Justice Rajeev Sahai has posted the matter for final disposal on February 7. Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan appeared on behalf of the petitioner/RTI applicant RK Jain.
According to the petition, a single bench judge of the Delhi High Court had ordered in 2010 that ACRs are the personal information of the public servant concerned and cannot be made public under RTI. Challenging the order, the petitioner argues that larger public interest warrants disclosure of all ACRs, when required under RTI Act.
He raised a pertinent question: “Whether performance appraisal reports of a public servant relating to his public duty can be termed as his 'personal information' the disclosure of which will infringe on his privacy?”
Under Section 8 of the RTI Act, only personal information is exempted from disclosure. Such personal information should have no relation to any public activity or interest, or it should not cause invasion of privacy of the individual. But there are two other provisions to Section 8, which hold that performance of a public duty by a public servant can't be exempted from disclosure.
The petitioner quoting from a speech of Lord Acton says: “Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show that it can bear discussion and publicity.”
Citing several court decisions of the past, Jain argues that ACRs contain no personal information of the officer concerned, except date of birth, date of joining government, employment code, job qualifications and courses attended during the period which is merely routine data about the officer and available otherwise as well. 
“The other information pertains to data which relates to the official position of the public official.” And the government should disclose this under the RTI Act, submit RTI activist RK Jain.

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