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25i/S/0 THE TIMES OF INDIA [DELHI] – 15-09-2006 UPSC won’t share public info Available On Govt Websites, But Not For Disclosure Under RTI Rema Nagarajan | TIG New Delhi: The Right to Information Act was, we thought, supposed to give people access to information that was hitherto not available. But the way the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) interprets the law, it turns out that even information that was publicly available earlier is now being treated as not for disclosure. TOI put in an application to the UPSC under the RTI about a month back, asking for information on the domicile, educational background, gender and such details of candidates selected for civil services. After almost the full 30-day period given under the RTI for the concerned body to respond, we have got a list of those selected without any of these details. The reason cited: All of these are, according to the UPSC, “personal information”. In his response to TOI’s application, M P Singh, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the UPSC claimed that disclosure of such “personal information of the candidates has no relation to any public interest or activity and therefore cannot be shared”. He invoked a provision of the RTI which says the government is not obliged to divulge information of a personal nature which is unrelated to public interest. What does not seem to have struck the UPSC is that almost all of this information — and more details like cadre, salary and current posting of IAS and IPS officers — are made available to the public on the websites of the Department of Personnel and Training and of the home ministry. If the information is “personal”, therefore, the privacy of the people concerned has already been violated by the government. It is also not clear how UPSC is able to argue that educational qualifications of bureaucrats is a matter of no “public interest”. The CPIO’s letter ends with the advice that the applicant can appeal to the appellate authority against his decision, an advice TOI has taken. The appeal has been filed and it will be interesting to see what happens to it.
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