Time and again, we are reminded that the Right to Information (RTI) Act is used for diverse purposes to procure information at the individual level but which, indeed, have social ramifications.
One such issue is the procurement of a copy of the Aadhaar of a child whose parents have separated or divorced. Last week, the central information commissioner (CIC) reiterated the central public information officer (CPIO)’s stance that unless the RTI applicant gives the Aadhaar number of the child, it is not possible to trace the child’s Aadhaar details. However, before that, the order also insisted that, over and above, the parent’s (in this case the mother’s) consent is required, under the third-party clause of the RTI Act.
RTI applicant Ravi sought information in March 2020 from the CPIO of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)’s regional office at Chandigarh. Providing his and his ex-wife’s Aadhaar numbers, he asked for a copy of the Aadhaar of his daughter, who was born to them on 15 September 2015, at Masih Hospital. He also asked for information on the address where his daughter resides, as per records of UIDAI.
The CPIO, as well as the first appellate authority (FAA), denied him information under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act. Mr Jindal contested this, stating that, being the father of the minor and her natural guardian as per Section 6 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, he is entitled to get the desired information. Hence, he filed a second appeal with the CIC, which came up for hearing on 21 January 2022 and was conducted over the telephone.
Central information commissioner (CIC) Vanaja N Sarna observed that “The appellant (Ravi) is aggrieved as, according to him, he being the natural guardian of his minor daughter cannot be considered as a third party. CPIO has also submitted that the appellant has failed to mention any Aadhaar number of his minor daughter, without which it is nearly impossible for them to take any action whatsoever. By giving the names only, they will not be able to find the Aadhaar number associated with the names.”
Ms Sarna also stated in the order that the CPIO, while denying information, should have issued notice to the third-party under Section 11 of the RTI Act and that denying information under the exemption clause was not enough.
Funnily though, the third-party, in this case, would be a child of barely six or seven years of age. Hence, Ms Varna stated in the order, “It is to be noted that in the present case, the third-party being the minor daughter of the appellant, her consent is no consent. Hence, the CPIO should issue notice to the mother of the daughter, who is having the custody of the minor at present and upon receipt of the response from her, an additional reply along with a copy of the objections, if any, should be provided to the appellant.”
The time limit given for the CPIO is 30 days from the day of the order passed on 21 January 2022.
In another such case, which RTI applicant Ravi referred to during the second appeal hearing, RTI applicant Nimish filed an RTI application with the CPIO of the UIDAI’s regional office. He had sought information on “all documents available with UIDAI relating to enrolment/ issue/ amendment of Aadhaar number to his minor daughter, holder of Aadhaar number xxxx for the period from 12 January 2012 to 23 April 2018.”
The CPIO denied information under Section 8 (j) of the RTI Act. However, Nimish filed a second appeal, which was heard in November 2019. At that time, the CPIO stated that he had sent a copy for permission to give the information under the third-party clause of the RTI Act to the mother. He informed them that she had declined permission to provide the information. The CIC confined the order to direct the CPIO to provide a copy of the letter sent to the third-party to the appellant.
How Does a Child Get His or Her Aadhaar?
The UIDAI website states that “for children below five years, no biometrics will be captured. Their UID be processed on the basis of demographic information and facial photograph linked with the UID of their parents. These children will need to update their biometrics of ten fingers, iris and facial photographs when they turn 5 and 15. Intimation to this effect will be mentioned in the original Aadhar letter.”
What Is Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act?
(j) 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: Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.
What Is Section 11 of the RTI Act?
11. Third party information—
(1) Where a Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, intends to disclose any information or record, or part thereof on a request made under this Act, which relates to or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall, within five days from the receipt of the request, give a written notice to such third party of the request and of the fact that the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, intends to disclose the information or record, or part thereof, and invite the third-party to make a submission in writing or orally, regarding whether the information should be disclosed, and such submission of the third-party shall be kept in view while taking a decision about disclosure of information.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also the convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)