The Central Information Commission (CIC) has held that information relating to official tours by a Government official is not personal information and is not protected from disclosure. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said such information is of great concern to public interest since it concerns the working of a Government servant in his official capacity.

The ruling came on an appeal filed by Surender Kumar of Delhi who sought information from Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) regarding details of leaves availed and tours undertaken by one of the officers Rajinder Singh. The CFSL declined to provide the requisite information on the grounds that such disclosure will cause unwarranted invasion of privacy and is exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act.

The appellant, however, contended that the information sought by him was for public interest.
Rejecting CFSL’s contention, the Commission said since Rajinder Singh is a public servant , it cannot be argued that his activities which have direct bearing on his service are not public activities and therefore, exempted from disclosure as personal information.

The panel added if privacy is construed to mean protection of personal information then definition of ‘Sensitive Personal Data’ under U K Data Protection Act, 1998, would be a suitable reference point to help define the concept. “We have sought guidance from the U K Act, on the definition of private information which defines ‘Sensitive Personal Data’ as consisting of information relating to the racial or ethnic origin of a person, political opinions held by him, his religious beliefs or others of a similar nature, whether he is a member of a Trade Union, his physical or mental health or condition, sexual life, the commission or alleged commission of any offence and any judicial proceedings relating to such offences.” The information sought in the present case cannot be termed as personal information as it directly concerns the working of a public servant in his official capacity and is not a sensitive personal data, the order said.

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