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Kirubananthan K. Vs. PIO, EPFO, Chennai - (Central Information Commission) (02 Aug 2017)

Employment status of a person sought under RTI Act, can be furnished to spouse for purpose of deciding maintenance


Right to Information

Appellant had filed RTI application in year 2016, seeking information regarding details of EPF Account No. & EPF Account statement of wife of Appellant from date of opening of account to bill date. CPIO, vide its reply informed Appellant that, required information could not be provided as details requested are of personal nature and disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest and it infringes privacy of individual concerned. Therefore, said information is exempted from disclosure as per Section 8(1)(e) & (J) of RTI Act, 2005. Being aggrieved with CPIO reply, Appellant filed First appeal and first appellate authority upheld the decision of CPIO. Being dissatisfied, Appellant has approached the Commission.

The fact of a person's employment as available in a public authority cannot be considered as private or personal information of another person. While savings bank account or salary account of another person could be his or her personal information, amount of salary of a public servant cannot be considered so. Salary information of public servant is one of listed information to be given under Section 4(1)(b) of RTI Act. Similarly, PF related information of public servant is not private information, because by a statute a share of contribution from employee and employer is credited in PF account and there will be no other credits or debits from that account.

Spouses inter se have right to maintenance especially, when living separately or under disputes. If one spouse has filed petition for maintenance, that has to be decided based on material information available about the incomes and investments of each spouse. Justice cannot be rendered without complete information. Right to maintenance, duty to maintain and right to seek the remedy of maintenance is recognized by law. In Kusum Verma v. Mahinder Kumar Veerma, Delhi High Court held that, all kinds of investments and incomes made by spouses shall be furnished in the form of affidavit in every maintenance petition, on their own.

Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government of India, has recently made few amendments in Employees' Provident Fund Scheme, 1952 (PF Scheme). These guidelines are mainly related to 'early withdrawals' from Provident Fund & provisions related to PF withdrawals. These latest EPF withdrawal Rules are effective from 10 February, 2016. As per new rule, full EPF withdrawal is not allowed up to retirement age. This change adversely impact individuals who frequently change job and withdraw the EPF amount. Rules also facilitated the continuity of EPF membership, Increase in Age limit to withdraw 90% of PF balance, Partial withdrawal of EPF amount on Resignation and Increase of retirement age. All this establish that, PF account of a salaried employee is for future and retirement security measure, which cannot be counted as present 'income' for the purposes of maintenance decision. However, fact whether spouse is employed could be relevant for the spouse. If the public authority holds any information, which can show that a spouse is an employee, that part of information could be shared under RTI Act.

Commission observes that, employment status of person can be furnished to spouse for purpose of deciding maintenance, if sought under RTI Act, because such information could be an essential component in deciding maintenance issues. If wife is a Petitioner for maintenance, she has a right to know salary details, similarly a husband can defend his interest seeking the salary details and employment status of wife. The Commission directs Respondent authority to provide employment status relating to Mrs. M. Nithya alone to the Appellant, within 15 days from this date.

Relevant : Kusum Verma v. Mahinder Kumar Veerma


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