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Bombay HC orders probe into disclosure of RTI applicants’ details on I&B Ministry’s website: Reports

The Bombay High Court has directed the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) to conduct an inquiry into the disclosure of personal data of more than 4,000 Right to Information (RTI) applicants on its website, reported LiveLaw and Bar and Bench. The Bombay High Court’s verdict will likely set precedent over the disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII) by the government, in line with the Right to Privacy judgement.

The division bench was hearing a petition filed by Saket Gokhale, an RTI activist. Gokhale had filed an RTI application with the Ministry of Youth and Sport Affairs in October, seeking information about the “Bharat ki Laxmi” campaign. The application was then transferred to the I&B Ministry, which later uploaded it along with his personal details on its website. It was later established from a supplementary affidavit by the ministry that details of 4,474 RTI applicants including Gokhale had been uploaded on the same website along with personal details. Last week, the court had pulled up the Ministry for the lapse. It expressed surprise over finding that so many applications had been uploaded.

The court on Thursday directed the Ministry to conduct an inquiry into the disclosure of personal data. The Secretary, I&B ministry has been told to finish the inquiry within three months, failing which Gokhale can approach the court again.

The court also imposed a fine of ₹25,000 on the Indian government to compensate for Gokhale’s litigation costs. Furthermore, it granted Gokhale the liberty to move the civil court for damages incurred due to the disclosure of his personal details. Gokhale, a vocal critic of the NDA government, took to Twitter to express his satisfaction with the verdict.

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