Shailesh Gandhi kisses your privacy goodbye

Recently, I blogged about an important dispute related to the Right to Information Act. The dispute dealt with two issues 1) that of hard copy verus soft copy data 2) protecting the privacy of students.

Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi ruled on this issue. The good news: IITs have to provide a soft copy of the data. The bad, rather ugly news: can kiss your privacy goodbye.

Here is a quote from this truly horrible ruling (the PDF is here. It is only 3 pages. You can read it yourself)

the Commission rules that merely giving the name of the person and the pin code with the marks obtained cannot be considered as an invasion of the privacy of an individual

If revealing an individual’s test scores publicly does not violate privacy, I don’t know what does.

I hope somebody appeals this ruling to a High Court or the Supreme Court. After all, India’s courts have consistently ruled that the right to privacy is a fundamental right. The courts have also ruled that the right to information is a fundamental right. The RTI act talks about the conflict between the right to privacy and the right to information.

information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information

As someone who cherishes both the right to privacy and the right to information, I am sure there will be complicated situations that courts will consider in the future, in deciding when public interest justifies disclosure and when it does not. This case, in my opinion, doesn’t even come close to causing a conflict. No public interest is served by revealing a student and their test score to the public. Mr. Shailesh Gandhi did not even bother to articulate when that would be true in his ruling. Violating an individual’s fundamental right to privacy at the very least deserves a few more drops of ink.

PS: Thanks to Prof. Gautam Barua for his comment :)

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