The Bombay High Court directed the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to conduct an inquiry into the disclosure of personal data of over 4,000 Right to Information (RTI) applicants on its website.
The order was passed in a plea filed by activist Saket Gokhale seeking the removal of his personal data from the Ministry website.
The Bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Milind Jadhav directed the Ministry to complete the probe and submit a report within three months, failing which liberty was granted to Gokhale to approach the High Court.
The Court also directed the Union of India to pay Rs 25,000 towards litigation costs incurred by Saket Gokhale.
The Court further granted liberty to Saket Gokhale to move the civil court for damages incurred due to such disclosure of his personal details.
Last week, the Court had reserved its verdict after both parties concluded their submissions.
Saket Gokhale has been vocal against the present regime in India and, therefore, pointed out that he has been at the receiving end of backlash and hatred on account of the same.
He had sought compensation to the tune of Rs. 50 lakh on the ground of violation of his right to privacy and for the distress caused by the constant threats made to his life.
Gokhale submitted that the MIB’s action was in violation of precedents set by Supreme Court. He informed the High Court that his details were visible on the website as recently as the first week of September 2020 (as last seen by him).
In the previous hearing, Advocate Rui Rodrigues, appearing for the MIB, had argued that the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) was not aware of the Office Memorandum of 2016 which had directed the non-disclosure of personal details of RTI applicants on the MIB website.
When the Court raised a query to the MIB to clarify whether details of all RTI applicants were uploaded on their website, the Ministry replied that Gokhale was not singled out, and that details of over 4,000 RTI applicants had been uploaded by the CPIO.
The MIB pointed out that Gokhale’s details were, in any case, removed as soon as he had approached the Ministry seeking the removal of his data.
After hearing all submissions, the Court had reserved the matter for orders. The Bench added that it would also deal with the issue of the lapse on the part of MIB, which went unnoticed until Gokhale raised alarm.