Many a time, Public Information Officer (PIO) rejects RTI Application by simply saying that “the information sought is third party information, and hence can’t be furnished”. This is purely misleading reply, and thus warrants action against PIO. As per the RTI Act, only those information are exempted under RTI, which comes under Section 8, and 9 of the RTI Act. In fews cases, PIO rejects application because of lack of information on how to furnish third party information. In this article, I have explained the complete procedure for disclosure of Third Party Information, which has been provided under Section 11 of RTI Act 2005.
If an applicant seeks any information which relates to or has been supplied by a third party and that third party has treated that information as confidential, the PIO shall decide whether the information should be disclosed or not. The principle that guides PIO in taking decision in such cases is that “except in the case of trade or commercial secrets protected by law, disclosure may be allowed if the public interest in disclosure outweighs in importance any possible harm or injury to the interests of such third party”. However, before disclosing the third party information, the PIO shall follow the following procedure:
1. If the PIO intends to disclose the information, he shall, within five days from the receipt of the application, give a written notice to the third party that the information has been sought by the applicant under the RTI Act and that he intends to disclose the information. Through the notice, he shall request the third party to make a submission in writing or orally, regarding whether the information may be disclosed. The third party shall be given a time of ten days, from the date of receipt of the notice by him, to make representation against the proposed disclosure, if any.
2. When the third party submits his view on disclosure of information, the PIO shall make a decision regarding disclosure of the information keeping in view the submission of the third party. Such a decision should be taken within forty days from the receipt of the request for information. If the PIO finds no merit in the submissions of the third party, or PIO is of the view that there is possible harm or injury to the interests of the third party, but public interest in disclosure outweighs in importance any such harm or injury, he/she may decide to disclose the requested information to the applicant and give in writing the notice of his decision to the third party. Section 11 of RTI Act 2005 does not give the third party a right of veto in giving information (except in the case of commercial or trade secrets protected by law). The notice given to the third party should include a statement that the third party is entitled to prefer an appeal under Section 19 of the RTI Act against the decision.
3. The third party can prefer First Appeal
under Section 19(2) to the First Appellate Authority against the decision made by the PIO within 30 days from the date of the receipt of notice. If not satisfied with the decision of the First Appellate Authority, the third party can prefer a Second Appeal
under Section 19(4) of the RTI Act to the Information Commission.
4. In case, the third party decides to prefer an appeal against the decision of the PIO to disclose the third party information, the PIO shall not disclose the information till the appeal is decided.
Case – II: PIO doesn’t intend to disclose the Third Party Information:
In case, if the PIO decides that the requested information will not be disclosed, then the basis for denying the information must be in accordance with only Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act.
This is the complete procedure for disclosure of Third Party Information provided under Section 11 of RTI Act 2005.