The Delhi High Court’s Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva on Monday granted a stay on the Central Information Commission’s order directing the disclosure of ASG Sanjay Jain’s fees as first reported by The Indian Express.
The petition against the impugned order [pdf] was filed by the CPIO Litigation (Delhi High Court) Section, represented by Rahul Sharma and C.K. Bhatt.
On November 1 last year, the CIC had directed the disclosure of Jain’s fees in an appeal filed by Harikrishan Das Nijhawan. Associated with the NGO Paradarshita Public Welfare Foundation, Nijhawan had not only sought information on the fees paid, but also details of the “note sheet/orders” in the appointment file connected with the ASG.
When the matter eventually reached the CIC, Jain’s counsel M/s Saqib and Sarfaraj Ahmed, argued that this was nothing but an attempt to “settle personal scores”. Jain has been representing the Union of India in a number of PIL’s filed by Nijhawan. It was also argued that “no public interest” is involved in disclosing the quantum of fees paid.
Disagreeing with these contentions, Information Commissioner Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu held that,
“The ASG represents the interests of ‘state’, i.e., the public in general and for that he is paid remuneration from public fund. The Judicial wing respondent authority has to furnish information about appointment after blocking all personal information of Mr. Sanjay Jain. Thus, there is no privilege that protects the disclosure.”
The CIC not only directed the PIO to provide the following:
- Details of the fees paid to Jain,
- The noting portion regarding his appointment
- Jain’s CV/application after separating personal information including TDS details
Challenging this order before the Delhi High Court, the petitioners argued that the information sought contains privileged and personal information, the disclosure of which cannot be made without the consent of the law officer in question.
It was further contended that there was no “public interest” shown by the respondents for the disclosure of such information.
The counsel submitted,
“All bills which are paid are paid after due verification and scrutiny by the concerned finance department which verifies the order sheets and the presence of counsel prior to the disbursal of any fee is concerned.”
The bench stayed the CIC’s order along with issuing notice to Nijhawan seeking his reply on the petition. The matter is now listed for further hearing on April 24.
Read the order here.
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