Father-in-law can’t access phone records under RTI: High court

Ipsita Mishra

Loopholes still surface with many of the fundamental concepts of the RTI even after 60 years of its implementation. Amongst many problems that persist, one of the major problems is about to what extents can person accesses another person’s information.

According to section 2 (n) of the RTI Act, 2005, ‘third party’ means a person other than the citizen making a request for information and includes a ‘public authority’. In Shri Rajender Kumar Arya vs. Dy. Commissioner of Police (DCP). The commission ruled that they now have the decision of the Madras High Court in the context of right to privacy in light of the RTI Act. High Court observed that with the advent of the Right to Information Act, section 3 of the Act entitles a citizen to the right of information. Section 4(2) of the said Act obliges a public authority to disclose information to common people. Even personal information or information, which may otherwise amount to an invasion of privacy, may also be disclosed if the larger public interest so warrants. The court in fact came to the conclusion that the right to privacy virtually fades out in front of the ‘Right to Information’ and ‘larger public interest’. The contrary was decided in the present case.

A CIC directive to the TRAI was set aside by Justice V Jain to furnish the records to the applicant. The applicant argued that he was in need of those details to defend himself since his daughter-in-law had accused him. Justice Jain said that under section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, with whom the subscriber communicates or sends or receives messages are his/her personal affairs and disclosure of which is bound to impinge on his privacy.The regulatory body argued that the CIC order will compromise the individual’s privacy because if these details are available, any individual will be able to access call and SMS details of any citizen by simply filing an RTI with TRAI. The power to call for information can be exercised by TRAI only if such information is required for discharge of functions assigned to it. TRAI disagreed with the CIC order and stated that under section 11 of the Act information’s like names, call details, SMSs copies etc are not amongst the functions assigned to TRAI .HC agreed and stated that if such information can be requisitioned by TRAI, it would result in a situation where by knowing with whom one communication is taking place where it is able to violate with impunity the fundamental right of a citizen to his privacy.