Bhagyanagar Gas Ltd. is not a public authority under the RTI Act

central_information_commission

Central Information Commission (CIC): CIC has held that Bhagyanagar Gas Ltd., which is a joint venture company constituted with participation of GAIL India Ltd. and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (HPCL), two public sector undertakings, is not a public authority under the RTI Act. The Commission came upon the said finding while hearing an appeal filed by a person who sought a copy of the Hook-Up Agreement with Reliance Gas Transportation Infrastructure Ltd. (RGTIL) entered into in 2010 by Bhagyanagar Gas Ltd. Earlier, Bhagyanagar Gas Ltd. had denied the said information stating that BGL was not a public authority under the RTI Act and was not covered under the Act. In appeal, it was stated that Bhagyanagar Gas Ltd. have substantial shareholding of 99% approximately of GAIL India Ltd. and HPCL and is headed and controlled by Directors provided by the above public sector undertakings, therefore, Bhagyanagar Gas Ltd. is a body substantially controlled and financed by Government. The Appellant also challenged the involvement of commercial confidence in this matter and stated that the Bhagyanagar Gas Ltd. got into an agreement with Reliance Gas Transportation Infrastructure Ltd., involving public money and, therefore, the public has right to get information concerning the agreement. In its defence, Bhagyanagar Gas Ltd. stated that the information sought by the appellant concerns an agreement involving commercial confidence, which cannot be revealed to third parties. It referred to S. 2 (45) of the Companies Act, 2013 as per which a Government company means any company in which not less than 51% of the paid-up share capital was held by the Central Government or by any State Government or Governments and added that Bhagyanagar Gas Ltd. does not fall in this category. It was further stated that in the Board of Directors of Bhagyanagar Gas Ltd., there were two directors each from GAIL India Ltd. and HPCL and, at the moment, one independent director; though as per the Companies Act, there should be two independent directors. After hearing the parties, CIC observed that, “From the information obtained from the websites of GAIL India Ltd. and HPCL, it is seen that the shareholding of Government of India in these entities is 56.11% and 51.11% respectively. The remaining shareholding is of financial institutions, banks, mutual funds, employees and others. Further, these entities also generate income from their commercial activities. Therefore, shareholding of approximately 98% by these organizations in Bhagyanagar Gas Ltd. does not qualify as substantial financing by the appropriate Government within the scope of Section 2 (h) (d) (i) of the RTI Act.” CIC further observed that even though four of the five directors of Bhagyanagar Gas Ltd. were from GAIL India Ltd. and HPCL, because of what is stated above regarding the shareholding of GAIL India Ltd. and HPCL, their presence on the Board of Directors cannot be regarded as substantial control by the appropriate Government. “In view of the foregoing, we decide that Bhagyanagar Gas Ltd. is not a public authority under the RTI Act,” Commission noted and disposed of the appeal. [K. C. Unnikrishnan v. Bhagyanagar Gas Ltd., 2016 SCC OnLine CIC 4847, decided on April 26, 2016]

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