Former minister of forest and environment Surupsinh Naik may find some solace after the Bombay High Court directed the Right to Information Information Commissioner to hear him before providing information on his medical records.
Naik challenged the order of state information commissioner which allowed the information regarding his medical report to be made available to social activist Shailesh Gandhi under the RTI Act.
A division bench of Justice FI Rebello and Justice RM Sawant on Friday ruled that in case of an inconsistency between the regulations framed by a body and the provisions of RTI, the latter would supersede and information would have to be made available in terms of the Act.
“The confidentiality of medical records of a patient, including a convict, required to be maintained as per the regulations framed by the Medical Council cannot override the provisions of RTI,” the bench said.
The court further ruled that the records of people sentenced/convicted and admitted in a hospital should be provided if they are maintained by the state or a public authority and the information can be denied only under rare and valid circumstances. The public should have access to the information that Parliament and the legislation has.
However, Naik contended in his petition that he had not been given a fair hearing by the Information Officer of JJ Hospital before providing information to Shailesh. The court has now directed the State Information Commissioner to give him a hearing within 30 days and pass appropriate orders. The HC order also clearly mentions that in rare cases where there could be invasion of privacy, it is the discretion of the Information Officer to provide information if there is a larger public interest.
Shailesh said that this was a landmark judgment as it upheld the powers of RTI.
“The court has clearly said that RTI overrides all other acts. This will have a greater impact on the number of people seeking information about convicts in hospital and hopefully the health of powerful criminals will now improve,” he said.