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Info panel orders college to give estranged husband details of leave taken by teacher

Jalandhar resident Dr Naresh Kundra used the Right to Information Act to seek such information from H M V College in Jalandhar regarding his estranged wife Meenu Kundra.

Written by Rajni Shaleen Chopra | Chandigarh | Published: February 10, 2012 12:23:09 am

Please inform regarding the time she came in the college in the morning and left in the evening. Please inform when did she avail maternity leave during service in your college. Please give certified copy of the details of leave taken by her in any form in the months of January,February,March 2003,and the reasons given by her for taking those leaves.

Jalandhar resident Dr Naresh Kundra used the Right to Information Act (RTI) to seek such information from H M V College in Jalandhar regarding his estranged wife Meenu Kundra. As the information pertained to a third party (Meenu),the college sought her permission before providing the details. Meenu refused and the college informed Kundra accordingly. Following this,Kundra knocked the doors of the Punjab Information Commission in Chandigarh.

After hearing the case,in a pathbreaking order,state Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) R I Singh has directed that such information can been provided to an RTI applicant. “The queries of the information seeker are not about personal information pertaining to private affairs of Mrs Meenu Kundra. The information pertains to discharge of public duties by a public functionary. No exemption has been granted under the Right to Information Act,2005 from disclosure of such information,” the CIC has held.

Singh said he was aware that the information seeker and the third party are husband and wife involved in acrimonious litigation. For the purposes of the Act,he said,the relationship between the information seeker and the third party is irrelevant. “It is also immaterial as to for what purpose an information seeker is seeking the information or to what possible uses he may put the same … In fact,if the information is to be used in a criminal case,disclosure may be in public interest,” held the CIC.

Section 6(2) of the RTI Act specifies that an applicant making request for information will not be required to give any reason for seeking it. It adds that if such information cannot be withheld from the state legislature,it can also not be withheld from a private citizen.

The CIC observed that the eight queries of the information seeker regarding Meenu Kundra “relate to her appointment as a lecturer,the salary being paid to her,the duties assigned to her,the leave availed by her,etc.” “These are all official matters. The RTI Act does not give public servants the luxury to seek secrecy in public affairs,” he added.

Kundra had told the Commission that his wife had sought almost similar information regarding him from his employer and it was provided to her. He had further informed that cases had been registered against him and his 70-year-old father and the information concerned “the life and liberty of the information-seeker and his family”.

However,Meenu Kundra had strongly objected to the disclosure of the information on the ground that the information seeker is her husband and they have strained relations. She added that in November 2009,an FIR was registered in Jalandhar against the information seeker and his parents. A petition for divorce and another petition for maintenance were also sub-judice,she said. Meenu took the plea that the information sought by her husband was “personal and private in nature” and could adversely affect her rights,interests,as well as the litigation pending between them.

In the judgment,the CIC referred to an order of the Central Information Commission which stated that details of dates of leaves and nature of leave taken by an employee cannot be construed as invasion of an individual’s privacy. In another case,it had held that disclosure of attendance register and educational qualifications certificates cannot be considered as invasion of the privacy of an individual.

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