RTI should be circumscribed if it encroached privacy: PM

Voicing concern over frivolous and vexatious use of the RTI Act, prime minister Manmohan Singh today said the citizens' right to know should definitely be circumscribed if it encroached on the right to privacy of an individual.

"There is a fine balance required to be maintained between the right to information and the right to privacy, which stems out of the fundamental right to life and liberty. The citizens' right to know should definitely be circumscribed if disclosure of information encroaches upon someone's personal privacy. But where to draw the line is a complicated question," he said.

Singh was addressing the seventh convention of central information commissioners. He said there were concerns about frivolous and vexatious use of the Act in demanding information disclosure of which could possibly not serve any public purpose.

He added, such queries besides serving little productive purpose also constituted a drain on the resources of public authorities, that diverted precious man-hours which could be  put to better use.

"Sometimes information covering a long time-span or a large number of cases is sought in an omnibus manner with the objective of discovering an inconsistency or mistake which can be criticised," he said.

Touching upon the area of public-private partnerships, the prime minister said blanket extension of the RTI Act to such bodies could discourage private enterprises from entering in partnership with public sector, while a blanket exclusion might harm accountability of public officials.