Complaints against a government officer and information unavailable in records cannot be furnished under RTI: SEBI

Requested information can be exempted from disclosure under section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act since it comes under personal information and does not relate to any public activity. Disclosure of such information would amount to invasion of privacy of the concerned individual. If any public authority does not have the required information, the authority is not obligated to find, collect or collate such information and give it to the applicant. This was observed in the matter of Mohit Kumar v. CPIO, SEBI, Mumbai, [Appeal No. 4499 of 2021] before Mr. Anand Baiwar.

The matter involves an appeal by under the RTI Act, 2005, as the appellant was not pleased with response given by the respondent. The first query involved providing certified photocopies of the register of complaints received, showing complaints against the staff/officers from 1992 till now. The second query was w.r.t complaints against staff/officers/promoters of SEL Manufacturing Co. Ludhiana. In response to the first query, since the information sought came under section 8(1)(j) it was disclosed. The Appellate Authority relied on Manoj Arya v. Cabinet Secretariat ( Order Dated 26th June, 2013) which held that complaints made against government officers are personal and has no relation to public interest. The same was reiterated in Giri R Deshpande v. CIC and Ors (SLP (C) No. 27734 of 2012) and Mohammad Iqbal Soharatali Ansari v. CPIO & GM (BSNL) (order dated 3rd August, 2015). With respect to the second query, it was informed by the Respondent that such information is not available with the SEBI but the Resolution Plan of the company was accessible by the public. The Appellate Authority referred to CBSE & Anr v. Aditya Bandhopadhyay (dated August 9th, 2011), Pattipatti Rama Murthy v. CPIO, SEBI (Dated 8th July, 2013) wherein it was held that if information is unavailable, there is no responsibility of the public authority to provide such information.

In light of the same, the Appellate Authority held that, “the requested information is exempt from disclosure under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act. Further, I note that the appellant has not established that the information sought is for larger public purpose. Accordingly, I do not find any deficiency in the response…..the information sought by the appellant was not available with SEBI and therefore, the respondent cannot be obliged to provide such non–available information….. In view of the same, I do not find any merit in the submission of the appellant. Accordingly, the same does not warrant consideration at this stage……..There is no need to interfere with the decision of the respondent. The Appeal is accordingly dismissed”.

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Judgement Reviewed by Vagisha Sagar

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