NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission has directed the Bureau of Immigration, an agency exempted from RTI Act disclosures, to give a person details of his travel as he needed it for defence in penal proceedings.
The CIC underlined that any impediment in a person's self-defence would be a breach of human rights.
The case pertains to RTI applicant M Dinesh, who had sought information related to his arrival-departure details in his passport, through his application in 2016.
Dinesh said he was falsely implicated by a person who alleged that he had threatened him.
Dinesh claimed that he was in Dubai when the purported incident allegedly took place, but the police did not hear his plea and sent him to jail.
He applied for details of his arrival and departure from Bureau of Immigration, a unit of the Intelligence Bureau, which is exempted from making any disclosures under the transparency law barring allegations pertaining to corruption and human rights violations.
"I request your good say to direct and order BOI to provide my arrival and departure details on my passport. I am only asking my own particulars in my passport, which aren't readable," he pleaded before the Commission.
Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad said Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees a right to lead a dignified life with personal liberty, while Article 14 guarantees equality before law to all citizens.
"In a catena of judicial pronouncements, the right to a have a fair trial is held to be an embodiment of the Article 14 read with Article 21," Azad, a former senior intelligence officer, underlined in his order.
Azad said he is left with no doubt that a man preparing for his self-defence in penal proceedings exercises his basic human right.
"Any impediment in the same would invariably be a breach of human right. The term 'violation' as preceding the term 'human right' inthe proviso to Section 24 of the RTI Act has to be understood in a broader manner so as to cover any past or ongoing violation of human rights," he noted.
Azad said it is not necessary that the breach of human rights has to be conclusively proved by the information seeker.
"A credible allegation of breach of human right, which weighs favourably with the Commission warrants disclosure of information," he said.
He said had the stamps affixed on the passport of the appellant been clearly identifiable, no need would have arisen for seeking information from the public authority.
Azad said the present case can also be viewed as a simple case of hardship which needs a sympathetic redressal by the public authority.
"The Commission is quite alive to the possible exponential increase in requests for information under RTI Act regarding foreign travel citing the present decision as precedent.
"It would not be possible to postulate all specific instances in which information shall be divulged," he said, asserting that the present decision cannot be generalised.
Azad said in the present case the appellant was not seeking information related to any third party, but his own travel details to prove his innocence in criminal proceedings.
"The information sought is crucial to the appellant for a fair opportunity of self-defence. The Commission is not considering the culpability or innocence of the appellant in the criminal case set up against him; but declining a fair opportunity to arrange for material of self-defence would certainly breach the human right of appellant," he said.