SRINAGAR: The Regional Passport Office (RPO) Srinagar has refused to divulge details about total number of people who were denied passports by the issuing authority.
In response to an RTI application filed by the head of the human rights wing of Hurriyat (M), Mannan Bukhari, seeking details about rejected application and consequent passports denials since 1990 to March, 2015, the chief public information officer (CPIO) denied information stating that the said information falls under section 8 sub-section 1 (g) and (j) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
The CPIO has said that under these sections and sub-section “the information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes.”
These sections also state that “information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual,” the reply said.
Bukhari had filed the application on May 15, 2015 in which had sought information about the total number of passport applications rejected on account of the non-clearance reports by the police and other investigating agencies.
He had also sought information about total number of such passport applications forms of desired persons, which were still pending for clearance or were awaiting further orders, before the RPO.
Aggrieved by the response, Bukhari has now filed first appeal before first appellate authority in which he has termed the CPIO’s response as “vague and wrong.”
In the appeal, Bukhari has said that the reply sought by the appellant has been denied in categorical terms by the CPIO concerned by stating the “misleading and distorted reality about Section 8 1 (J) of the RTI Act, as such, the PIO concerned has miss construed the meaning of the above stated provision of the Act.”
He further stated in the appeal that according to the section 8 of the RTI Act : “Exemption from disclosure of Information–(1)Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen,-
( j ) Information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.”
In his appeal, he stated that from bare perusal of section 8 1 (J) it has been categorically made clear in view of the said section that the information sought is purely of public interest as such the disclosure of the same has definitely got relationship to the public activity and their interests, as such no unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual/public shall be caused in view of the fact that the appellant who sought the information, does not want it viz-a-viz the privacy of any individual/public.
“The fact of the matter is that the passport applications/forms of the citizens have been either rejected or with held as consequence of which they have been denied passports on account of the non clearance reports by the police and other investigation agencies.”
“It is further more submitted that the appellant didn’t seek the information about any particular person/individual, if this is the case, then the situation would have been different and it could have been easily assumed and presumed that the information sought is the unwarranted invasion on the privacy of any activity of public/individual, but here the case is different, the applicant sought the information about total number of passport applications/forms but not about any particular individual or public activity, hence the information sought in no way can be treated as unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual.”
He submitted that the information sought as stated herein above, “would not endanger the life or physical safety of any person as reflected in Section 8 1 (g) of Act as the information sought is purely of public interest besides it has no bearing on Law enforcement, the disclosure of which shall be denied for security purposes. It is humbly submitted that the PIO concerned has not assigned any reason/s as to how the information sought endangers the life or physical safety or as to how it is the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes. “
“Hence the appellant has been deprived/denied the information sought without any reasonable cause or justification. Therefore, the same amounts to the violation of the Principals of Natural Justice (PNJ) which is required to be addressed and redressed by this forum,” he stated in the appeal.