Court reserves order on sharing officials’ appraisal reports (Lead)

February 7th, 2012 - 10:33 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 7 (IANS) The Delhi High Court Tuesday reserved its order on a plea that government employees’ performance appraisal reports, officially known as the annual confidential report (ACR), should be available under the Right to Information (RTI) Act in “public interest”.

RTI activist and petitioner R.K. Jain raised the question whether an ACR relating to his public duty can be termed as his “personal information” and whether their disclosure will infringe on his privacy.

According to a circular issued by the ministry of personnel and public grievances in 2007, “an ACR contains information about the character, capability and other attributes of the officials, disclosures of which to any other person would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy”.

ACRs are the basis on which the officials’ increments are given. Officials are rated as “extraordinary/very good/good/poor”. In order to be promoted, the assessee would have to earn an “extraordinary” or “very good” thrice.

Stating that under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, only personal information is exempted from public disclosure, the petitioner argued that ACRs do not come under this category.

The petitioner, who is also the editor of the Excise Law Times, challenged the earlier order, adding that “larger public interest warrants disclosure of all ACRs, when required, under the RTI Act”.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, argued: “The ACRs contain no personal information of the officer concerned, except date of birth, date of joining government, employment code, job qualifications and courses attended during the period which is merely routine data about the officer and available otherwise as well.”

Bhushan said “only those information, which relate to personal information ‘which has no relation to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of the individual’, is exempted from disclosure”.

“And the information pertaining to performance of the public duty of a public servant cannot to be exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act,” Bhushan added.

Manisha Dhir, counsel for central government, opposed the plea saying ACRs were exempted from disclosure as these were related to personal information on public servant.

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