'Personal Information Exemption Not Available To Corporate Entity; Staff Entitled To Know About Financial Status Of Company' : CIC [Read Order]

The Central Information Commission has held that an employee is entitled to know under Right To Information Act 2005 about the financial status of the employer-company which has been defualting in payment of salaries

The applicant Subramanian K Ansari had sought information from the Income Tax Department about the balance sheets and profit and loss accounts of last 10 years of the Cambata Aviation Ltd, which had ceased operations in 2016.

The applicant alleged that M/s Cambata Aviation Pvt. Ltd had deprived salary/ wages to more than 2100 employees since March, 2016 on the pretext of bad condition of finance and loss in the business resulting in extreme financial hardships to him and hundreds of other employees. He further alleged that the said Company was also willfully defaulting in payment of statutory dues of PF/ST/LIC/ESIC and Credit Society, etc. Despite citing financial difficulties, the company had recruited more than 800 employees in 2014 and 2015, and in this backdrop the employee wanted to know the truth of its claims.

The Public Information Officer denied disclosure citing Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, which exempts disclosure of personal information. The First Appellate Authority concurred with this view.

In second appeal, the CIC held that the exemption of 'personal information' under Section 8(1)(j) was not applicable to corporate entities.

"the expression "personal information" as used in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the Act has to be read in the context of information relating to an individual and that the ordinary usage of the word "personal" is in the context of an individual human being and not a corporate entity", observed the CIC, following the judgment of Delhi HC in Naresh Kumar Trehan v. Rakesh Kumar Gupta.

It also observed that the disclosure of information was justified by larger public interest.

"Moreover, taking into consideration, the factual background in which the information was sought, it can undoubtedly be construed that the details were required by the Appellant in the larger public interest of the employees working in the said Company. The issue of non-payment of salary/ wages and other statutory dues to employees was certainly a grave matter which could not be brushed aside especially taking into consideration the turmoil and hardships faced by similar employees of Companies such as Kingfisher Airlines and recently Jet Airways which were once considered as behemoths of the Civil Aviation Sector/ Industry in the wake of the losses incurred by such companies".

The Commission observed that it cannot be a "mute spectator to the pitiable conditions being faced by the employees of the Aviation Company which is seeking shelter under Section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act, 2005.

Considering the "sensitivities of the matter as also in the light of the criticality of sustenance issues faced by its employees", the Commission instructed the Respondent to disclose point wise information as held and available with them to the Appellant in the larger public interest.

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