Whether The Contents Of Reply Of A Pio, When Published
In Newspapers, Would Amount To Defamation Or Invasion
Of Privacy, If The Said Reply Also Reveals About Actions
Of A Private Individual /professional. Please Clarify This Doubt.
If the information you have received from a PIO is under the RTI Act, it can be presumed to be correct, complete and not misleading.
Once information is provided under the RTI Act, it is in the public domain.
If the reply reveals about the actions of a private individual/professional then it must have to do something with "public interest" or actions of that individual which affect public interest. Otherwise the PIO should have denied the information since he would have considered it as "private" or "personal".
There are several news items everyday about replies received under the RTI Act.
I did consider routinely appearing RTI information in newspapers and that's why I did mention that in my comments .But what will happen when an individual gets his own ACRs/Appraisal Reports or notings of DPC ,received through RTI ,spread all over newspapers(for whatever reason,we arn't discussing reasons).I,as Reviewing officer/Senior Reviewing officer/Accepting Authority would consider it breach of fiduciary and shall definitely take the culprit to the court. That is the reason why I recommended advice of a legal professional.
I am only responding to the point about ACR's and fiduciary relationship.
The word “fiduciary” is derived from the Latin fiducia meaning “trust”,
a person (including a juristic person such as Government, University or bank) who has the
power and obligation to act for another under circumstances which
require total trust, good faith and honesty. The most common example
of such a relationship is the trustee of a trust, but fiduciaries can
include business advisers, attorneys, guardians, administrators,
directors of a company, public servants in relation to a Government
and senior managers of a firm/company etc. The fiduciary relationship
can also be one of moral or personal responsibility due to the superior
knowledge and training of the fiduciary as compared to the one whose
affairs the fiduciary is handling. In short, it is a relationship wherein
one person places complete confidence in another in regard to a
particular transaction or one’s general affairs of business. The Black’s
Law Dictionary also describes a fiduciary relationship as “one founded
on trust or confidence reposed by one person in the integrity and
fidelity of another.” The meaning of the fiduciary relationship may,
therefore, include the relationship between the authority conducting
the examination and the examiner who are acting as its appointees for
the purpose of evaluating the answer sheets. We do not tend to agree
with the decision of the Karnataka Information Commission wherein it
has been held that in a fiduciary relationship such as between the
examiner and the University, there are obligations only on the part of
examiner and that the authority conducting the examination being not
a trustee has no obligations. Any relationship including a fiduciary
relationship is bound to have mutual rights and obligations. Thus, in
the case before us where there is fiduciary relationship between the
examiner and the authority conducting the examination, the
obligations are mutual.
I don't know if you have ever been a government servant, but I am sure that after reading the above, NOT A SINGLE government servant will ever agree to the fact that ACR's are written and filed based on a "fiduciary" relationship.
My humble opinion is that no generalization can be made that would apply to all situations. Each situation is unique and deserves a careful assessment of information. Is is detrimental to some person. If it is, can it be proved to be true. Does it serve any useful public purpose?
I think just because some PIO released the information under RTI, does not give everyone a blanket immunity to publish it, if the information is defamatory. However it is certainly more difficult to prove that some information is defamatory if it is public information. And if it is released under RTI, it certainly is public information.
I do not know if this issue has been litigated in courts in USA. It is too early to find case -law on this issue in India, since RTI is relatively new law.
Defamatory suit is a tricky affair. In this case, the amount involved is too high. It appears susceptible for fowl play. The stake holders will go to any extend to stop your friend from persuing the application. If I am in his position, I would withdraw the application on a plea of making certain correction. His opponet will be happy to see this. Wait for a month. Make a fresh RTI application in consultation with someone who is familar with RTI. Get it examaned by an Advocate to ensure that it has no defamatory mischevious wording. It should be on a line seeking certified copies of the information held with PIO. No opinion or own assessement. No allegation etc. If he got the courage he should press it.