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Neeraj Sharma Vs. CPIO, Reserve Bank of India - (Central Information Commission) (15 May 2019)

Authorities are entitled to claim exemption when disclosure of information risks possibility of its misuse


Right to Information

In facts of the present case, the Appellant filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), seeking the information. Not satisfied with the response of the CPIO, the Appellant filed first appeal. The First Appellate Authority disposed of the first appeal vide order.

The Appellant has filed the instant appeal on the grounds that, the information has been wrongfully denied by the CPIO whereas in present case, disclosure of the information outweighs the protected interest of wrong doers who have conspired in compromising the financial data of huge number of citizens. He requested the Commission to direct the concerned CPIO to supply complete information sought by the Appellant and impose penalty as per Section 20 of RTI Act. He also requested the Commission to direct the public authority to make entry in service book/annual performance appraisal report of the CPIO for defying the provisions of the Act.

The Respondent submitted that, forensic investigation was conducted by ATM service provider M/S. Hitachi and a copy of the report was received by the Reserve Bank of India (hereinafter called the RBI). However, the report is confidential in nature and contains information about how the hackers entered the infrastructure, the patterns that were hacked, the future measures that may be formulated for security purposes. The disclosure of the above mentioned report would leak crucial information risking possibility of misuse of such information by hackers for illegal activities. The security strategies of the RBI and other bank would be compromised upon disclosure of details of the report. Therefore, the information was denied under section 8(1)(a) and (d) of the RTI Act. The Respondent stated that the disclosure of the names of the banks wherein the cards were misused would cause panic within the customers and the general public.

It is only in public interest that the security strategies and measures are safeguarded by the RBI. The risk involved in disclosure of the report overrides the requirement of its availability in the public domain. The case relied upon by the Appellant is distinguishable as the exemption is claimed u/s. 8(1)(a) & (d) and not u/s. 8(1)(e).

The authorities have claimed exemption by virtue of the provisions under Section 8(1)(a) and (d) of the RTI Act. The presumption that the legislature understands the needs of its people and that even its discrimination and classifications are based on adequate grounds has been acknowledged by the Supreme Court itself. The logic of balance exercise of judicial power has an assurance of institutional stability and re-organization of boundary of power is implicit in the Constitutional arrangement.

There have been plethora of judicial orders highlighting the issue of restraint by judicial bodies in substituting their wisdom over those who have been assigned the function of implementation of Laws. The Commission after adverting to the facts and circumstances of the case, hearing both the parties and perusal of records, feels that due reply has been given by the Respondent. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.


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