HC refuses to give information on structural audit to activist under RTI claiming it would endanger lives of judges

The Bombay High Court’s public information officer has refused to provide information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act about the structural audits of the court’s heritage building in south Mumbai, claiming that revealing such details would endanger the lives of judges and other officials.

Environmental activist Zoru Bathena had last month filed an RTI application seeking copies of the last three structural audits conducted for the main and annexe buildings of the Bombay High Court.

Bathena said he had sought the information to use in another matter about the reconstruction of the 135-year-old reservoir at Malabar Hill in south Mumbai.

“The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation claimed that the reservoir was beyond repair and needed to be reconstructed. We wanted to give examples of the high court building and the BMC’s headquarters building, which are also over a century old but are being repaired and not reconstructed,” Bathena said.

The activist claimed that he had sought the structural audit reports of the BMC building and had received the information, but the high court refused to provide the same.

The high court’s public information officer, in the response dated November 1, rejected Bathena’s application, noting that the information sought cannot be furnished as it has no relation with larger public activity or interest.

“The information sought is exempted from disclosure for security purposes. The information sought is also exempted as disclosure of the same would endanger the life or physical safety of the Hon’ble judges and officials of the Hon’ble Bombay High Court,” the reply said.

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It further stated that the information is held by the concerned department in a “fiduciary relationship” and that preservation of the confidentiality of such sensitive information was necessary.

“No larger public interest is demonstrated in your application. Hence, the information sought cannot be disclosed in view of exemption from disclosure under section 8(1) (e) of the Right to Information Act,” the public information officer said in the reply.

Bathena said he would now be filing an appeal against the refusal to provide the information with the concerned appellate authority.

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