PUBLIC AUTHORITY: YOUR RIGHT TO INFORMATION ENDS WHERE MY ‘NOSE’ BEGINS.
Where does the ‘nose’ begin is the question.
One specific ‘exemption from disclosure’ of information under the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005 stands out: ‘information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.’
The foregoing exemption of disclosure is most often cited as grounds for non-disclosure of information. The following questions are inescapable in this context;
i. What would comprise ‘commercial confidence’ –isolated pieces of information may or may not fall within ‘commercial confidence’, but when put in context of other pieces of information (perhaps procured separately) may fall within ‘commercial confidence’.
ii. Would anything falling within the ambit of a ‘confidentiality agreement’ fall within ‘commercial confidence’.
iii. Is there a potential that competitive position of third party may get affected consequent to disclosure of pieces of information over a period of time revealing a ‘pattern’.
iv. It is possible to accurately judge ‘larger public interest warranting disclosure of information’, and when in doubt, which side does one err.
v. Does such requirement of disclosure place a public sector undertaking involved in commercial enterprise at a disadvantaged position when compared to its private counterparts?
The applicant making the request for information is not required to give any reason for requesting the information. Arguably, it would follow that one is at liberty to use the information procured under the ‘Right to Information’ mechanism for any purpose.
Articulate clearly and precisely the ‘information’ you seek from the public authority for an accurate and an effective response.