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Information relating to wages of employees has to be voluntarily disclosed by public authority

Central Information Commission

Kalyan Kumar Ganguly v. PIO, ESIC, Kolkata

MANU/CI/0314/2017

11.05.2017

Right to Information

Information relating to wages of employees has to be voluntarily disclosed by public authority

Appellant sought information regarding M/s. Laxmi Distribution. Specifically, he sought relationship between one Mr. H.B. Singhvi and M/s. Laxmi Distribution; return of contribution filed for relevant period and whether it was certified by chartered accountants or not; total number of employees working in said establishment etc. through eight points. CPIO denied on grounds that, information sought was relating to third party. Being dissatisfied by Order given by FAA who upheld decision of CPIO, Appellant approached this Commission. Appellant submitted that, PF amount was deducted for period 1986 to 1988 but it was not deposited, and no benefits were given from 1986 to 2016.

PF account is not like any other individual private bank account where all his personal money also could be transacted, which could be his personal information. PF account does not contain any other money except accumulated amount of both contributions over a period of time. It is mandatory by law to contribute these two amounts to PF account. Hence, it is not private information. It is not personal because it has nothing to do with their private activity. It is relating to social security of workers at post-retirement period, which need to be secured for such longer periods. That is public interest. If it is kept secret, and an individual PF subscribed is cornered under fear or favour not to challenge fraud, employer can perpetuate the fraud. Hence, a third person or trade union leader or citizen can seek such information. Thus, argument of PIO that, worker can ask only about his information about PF account is not tenable. Information sought is available with employer and trustee. It cannot be denied to worker in particular and people in general.

Expression 'personal information' applies to 'individuals' and not 'bodies/institutions' or entities working for public good. Use of term "personal information" under Section 8(1)(j) of Right to Information Act, 2005 means information involving a private individual. Section 8(1)(j) of Act, prescribed 'public interest' as a requirement to decide disclosure of information though exempted. CPIO or First Appellate Authority is not just an executive officer in his office but an "authority" under RTI Act with a responsibility to use his personal discretion as per law while deciding RTI request. Public interest under section 8(1)(j) of Act, requires three conditions to be considered: absence of relationship with public activity or interest or, possibility of unwarranted invasion of privacy or, existence of larger public interest. Language of section 8(1)(j) of Act,  is very clear i.e., it demands satisfaction of CPIO.

In G.R. Rawal v. Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Ahmedabad, it is o held that, authority may order disclosure of such information, if they are satisfied that, larger public interest justifies disclosure. This would imply that, even a personal information which has some relationship to any public activity or interest may be liable to be disclosed. An invasion of privacy may also be held to be justified, if larger public interest so warrants. It is, therefore, necessary to analyze ambit and scope of both expressions "personal information" and "invasion of privacy".

Commission opines that, information relating to wages of employees has to be voluntarily disclosed by public authority under Section 4(1)(b)(x) of RTI Act, 2005. Workers' list, their salaries, and PF account money deposited in form of contributions by employer and employee as per a statute and a scheme under statute cannot be considered as 'third party' information. Workers file RTI application, only when there is some grievance or complaint regarding depositing or non-depositing of amount or wrong assessment of contribution, non-payment of interest on delayed crediting of contribution. None of this could be private information of some job holder or employer. PF account is different from savings bank account of a person. PF account is exclusively meant for holding contributions by both employer and employee and no other amount gets deposited or withdrawn.

Commission after perusing records finds that, Appellant has been harassed for no rhyme or reason and he has been deprived from getting information, in this regard, Commission suggests Appellant to make a representation to Respondent authority as well as CPIO, EPFO, Salt Lake City, Kolkata about documents that, he is wanting for. Commission directs CPIO, ESIC to provide information sought, after securing them from establishment M/s. Laxmi Distributions. Further, Commission directs CPIO, EPFO, Salt Lake City, Kolkata to provide all details to Appellant with regard to his PF details. Commission also directs M/s. Laxmi Distributions to provide the information sought.

Relevant

G.R. Rawal v. Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Ahmedabad

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