The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that a communication between the President of India and the leader of a political party and any correspondence between them concerning formation of a Government is protected from disclosure as such information is exchanged in confidence and is politically sensitive in nature.
Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said that an information which is sensitive in nature, and if the public interest warrants preservation of confidentiality, is protected from disclosure under the provisions of the RTI Act.
The ruling came on an appeal filed by one Milap Choraria of Delhi who had made an application to President’s Secretariat asking for copies of all communications addressed to the President following the 14th general elections containing various suggestions on the formation of the Government including the letter forwarded by Sonia Gandhi.
The President’s Secretariat refused to disclose the information on the grounds that these are confidential documents and held by the President of India in his fiduciary relationship and therefore is exempted from disclosure.
However, the appellant contended that the information relates to larger public interest and it is not protected under fiduciary relationship as it does not relate to any monetary or other transactions or correspondence between the two individuals relating to their personal relationships .
Rejecting the appeal, the Commission said: “Sensitivity of the information and the necessity to preserve confidentiality should be treated as the deciding factors for determining the ambit and scope of the term ‘fiduciary relationship.’ If read in the context of objectives of the RTI Act, which seeks to harmonise the conflicting interests of transparency vis-a-vis efficient operations of the Government, while preserving the paramountcy of the democratic ideals, there is no doubt that the communication between the President of India and a leader of a political party concerning formation of a Government is information exchanged in confidence and politically sensitive in nature. Therefore such information comes within the ambit of Section 8 (1)(e) and hence has to be held as exempted from disclosure”.