The Bombay High Court on Thursday instructed the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to begin an investigation into how personal details of over 4,000 Right to Information applicants were made public on its website, reported PTI. The High Court said not taking such lapses seriously would trivalise people’s right to information.

A bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Milind Jadhav dismissed a plea by RTI activist Saket Gokhale, who sought instructions for removal of his personal details from the ministry’s website. The bench also sought a report in the case within three months, and asked the ministry to pay Rs 25,000 to Gokhale, who had sought Rs 50 lakh as damages.

“This could defeat the object of the RTI Act,” the court said, according to Bar and Bench. “If such large scale breaches in the field of Right to Information are not taken seriously, the right itself will be trivialised. Suitable action must be taken, and also seen to be taken, to underscore the importance of the Act of 2005.”

During the hearing, the ministry tendered an apology through an affidavit, adding that action was taken against those involved. However, the court said it was unsatisfied with the time and the manner of the affidavit’s submission.

“Uploading the personal details of the applicants is...not only unnecessary, but it may also make some of the applicants vulnerable to unscrupulous elements....” the court said. “Looking at the magnitude of the lapse, it cannot be treated as just as a routine internal matter.”

On October 16, the High Court asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting whether the details of all Right to Information applicants were displayed on their website after Gokhale filed the petition.