The Bombay High Court on Thursday asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting whether the details of all Right to Information applicants were displayed on their website after Saket Gokhale, who describes himself as a transparency activist, filed a petition, Bar and Bench reported.
Gokhale sought removal of his personal contact details, which were uploaded on the official website of the I&B ministry, saying that its publication was a violation of his fundamental right to privacy. The activist also sought a compensation of Rs 50 lakh for the “mental trauma, agony and the threat to life and liberty”. He claimed to have received threatening phone calls for speaking out against the Narendra Modi government.
A bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and MN Jadhav asked the ministry to file an affidavit on whether only Gokhale’s personal details were revealed or if it was a large-scale mistake for every RTI applicant.
The activist argued that the actions of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was in violation of orders of the Supreme Court and High Courts, along with the Centre’s procedures.
In an affidavit on October 7, the ministry denied any mala fide intention behind displaying the petitioner’s details, according to Live Law.
“There is no malafide intention whatsoever of the answering respondent to disclose the personal information of the petitioner or any other RTI applicant by uploading the same on the website of the answering respondent and to cause damage to the petitioner or any other RTI applicant. The allegation of malafide is categorically denied.”— I&B ministry
Based on his information, Gokhale told the court that his details had been uploaded in November last year and were taken down only in the first week of September 2020.
Advocate Rui Rodrigues, appearing for the ministry, claimed that the Central Public Information Officer was not aware of non-disclosure of personal details on the website. He said the details were taken down immediately after receiving an office memorandum.
The judges directed Rodrigues to submit an additional affidavit clarifying when the CPIO was informed about the office memorandums. They also clarified that Gokhale can make his submissions in the next hearing after the additional affidavit is submitted.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was given two weeks’ time to file the affidavit and the matter will be listed for hearing after that.