NEW DELHI: Details about finances of a woman cannot be given by a public authority even to her husband under the Right to Information Act as it is personal information, the Central Information Commission has said.
According to Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu, when couples are entangled in legal disputes such as marital claims or cruelty charges, the privacy of individual spouse assumes importance in the context of demand for information.
He said a citizen, even if a spouse, has no right to information about deductions and expenditure from salary, as that would amount to personal information unless it is in larger public interest.
The Commission has, however, clarified that such restriction does not apply on the salary of the wife as such information is mandated to be disclosed under the provisions of the transparency law.
Acharyulu said that while a husband has a right to know the amount of salary of wife (public servant), information about her expenditure and loan deductions cannot be given under RTI.
"As far as RTI Act is concerned there is no difference between the spouse and citizen. Right to privacy is an individual right and within the couple, each can claim or give up that right," he said.
The case related to a couple facing marital dispute in which the husband Dheeraj Kapoor filed an RTI application seeking to know the salary details, deductions, expenditure and personal address of his wife at different times which was denied by Directorate of Health Services.
"Amount of salary and the details of pay-scale of public servant can be part of voluntarily disclosable (sic) information under Section 4(1)(b), whereas deductions, personal loans, details of net or gross salary paid for a particular month, or seeking a salary slip (payment voucher) and residential addresses are not disclosable, unless larger public interest is involved," Sridhar said.
The Information Commissioner said the RTI Act did not give any specific or special exemption to share personal information with the spouses.
The Commission noted during the hearing that despite objections of wife Chetna Kapur, the Directorate has shared information with her husband which was personal in nature and should not have been disclosed.
"Chetna Kapur refused to share the information. First Appellate Authority, in its single sentence conclusion, stated it was not private information, without giving any reasons.
It was illegal because, no reasons were given, against the provisions of RTI Act and violated the right to privacy of Chetna Kapur," Sridhar said, warning officials to desist from disclosing such personal information.