Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): While reiterating that third party’s personal information held by the bank in fiduciary capacity involving commercial confidence is exempt from disclosure under Section 8(1)(d), (e) and (j) of the RTI Act, CIC disposed of an appeal seeking information from the State Bank of India (Mumbai) regarding the basis of giving huge loans to Gautam Adani Group along with the evidence that the loan was connected to the coal mines of Australia.

It was alleged by the appellant that the Group has taken loans worth about Rs. 77,000 crores from various banks and the Group’s financial position was not sound, therefore, he wanted the information. Earlier, appellant approached CPIO and the first appellate authority (FAA) of the Bank but was informed that the information being sought was commercial information and held by them in trust for the third party, therefore, it could not be provided. The contention of the appellant that larger public interest was involved in the matter as it was his duty to enquire into the documents submitted by the Group, was rejected by the Commission on the ground that appellant had not even mentioned any larger public interest in the matter let alone substantiate in his RTI application. “The Commission finds that the appellant had sought third party’s personal information held by the bank in fiduciary capacity involving commercial confidence. The Commission, therefore, holds that the information sought is exempt under Section 8(1)(d), (e) and (j) of the RTI Act,” noted the Commission while disposing of the appeal. [Ramesh Ranchordas Joshi v. State Bank of India, 2016 SCC OnLine CIC 15858, decided on October 4, 2016]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): CIC has directed Chief Minister Office, Delhi to provide all relevant documents before the Chief Minister to facilitate him to consider a uniform policy of providing compensation to families of government employees including doctors killed on duty. Said directions of CIC came upon an appeal filed by the mother of a doctor who met an untimely death due to exposure to swine flu during his service. She sought information about compensation for death of her son. Earlier on March 3, 2015, the son of appellant who was a Senior Resident (Anaesthesia) at Chacha Nehru Bala Chikitsalaya, died because of exposure to swine-flu while on duty. The appellant was earlier denied information in the matter by Health & Family Welfare Department as well as by the Chief Minister Office. The Commission noted that Delhi State Government has enhanced compensation to Rs 1 crore for officers in uniform if killed on duty but it is not clear whether the policy of the Delhi State covers a doctor’s family to get compensation for his death due to decease. “Like a police officer a doctor is also risking life by exposure to deadly deceases, which is no less than facing bullets. For any family, loss of doctor son will be an irreparable damage. Either police or doctor, both serve and sacrifice for state and thus need to be treated equally. No policy can discriminate life of a doctor from that of soldier for purposes of compensation,” the Commission further noted. After perusing the documents and hearing both the parties, Commission observed, “Deadly decease like swine flu is as worse as a killing assailant. If there is no such security measure, it is difficult to give moral strength to young doctors to treat suffering citizens. The state has a duty to form uniform policy and inform the people about it to provide compensation to the family for unforeseen death of employee during service.” While observing that, “In this case the young doctor’s family has right to know whether they are entitled to compensation, if so, why not one crore rupees as given to officer killed on duty? State has to explain reasons for not treating a doctor on par with police,” CIC directed Chief Minister Office to provide the information sought by the appellant and in case her application is rejected, the reasons for rejection. CIC also directed Chief Minister Office to help the Chief Minister of Delhi to consider forming a uniform policy of providing compensation to families of government employees. [Anita Singh v. Health & Family Welfare Department, GNCTD, 2016 SCC OnLine CIC 7169, decided on May 31, 2016]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): While declaring an RTI applicant as misuser of social media and RTI, CIC warned him to stop misusing the law to harass his colleagues in a Delhi college. The Commission was hearing an appeal filed by an employee of Ambedkar Polytechnic, who filed RTI application seeking wide range of information about his colleagues and Principal and even of the officers who were supposed to inquire into complaints filed against him. He sought copies of integrity certificate of committee members those were involved in the inquiry. Appellant had already filed number of complaints, grievance representations, RTI applications, almost chocking entire administration. He also videographed the lecture of one of his lady colleagues in the class room without permission and put it on social media with reckless allegations. She complained against him before Delhi Commission for Women, which was dismissed on the ground that the Principal should have given a memo. She was upset with invasion of her privacy and reputation by wide circulation of abusive comments with video giving an impression there was some scandal. After perusal of documents and hearing the parties, CIC observed that the appellant is, “a misuser of every mechanism” and “every misuse of system like, PGMS, RTI and Social media shall be considered as an item of misconduct that invite disciplinary action.” “The head of the institute need to examine if it (actions of appellant) amounts to any offence under IPC or IT Act, and shall report to appropriate authorities including police,” CIC noted. The Commission also observed that the women colleagues were also entitled to get compensation for invasion of their privacy. The Commission further recommended the Delhi Commission for Women, to take necessary action on complaints of the lady colleague and report the compliance to the Commission. [Mohd. Shakeel Saifi v. Bhai Parmanand Institute of Business Studies, 2016 SCC OnLine CIC 3673, decided on March 3, 2016]

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): “The RTI is not a rendezvous for suspended employees or those erring personnel facing inquiries to serve their personal interests in protecting their misconduct or preventing the authorities from proceeding with penal proceedings enquiring into misconduct,” observed CIC while rejecting an appeal filed by a TGT teacher who sought information in respect to a charge-sheet issued to him. The appellant was charge-sheeted by State Council of Educational Research & Training (SCERT), for financial irregularities in organizing a workshop and defaulting in arranging resource person and making payment to them. He sought information regarding the charge-sheet and enquiry conducted in the matter from SCERT. As the appellant was not satisfied with the information provided, he approached the Commission. It was alleged by the appellant that due to the non-availability of information, investigation in the matter is pending. The appellant also laid charges of harassment upon other officials. After perusing the documents and hearing both the parties, CIC observed, “Here in this case, the appellant is unleashing his private vengeance against colleagues or seniors who are either inquiring or informing or complaining or giving evidence against him. Thus such information sought under RTI would squarely fall under exempted category under Section 8(1)(h) (‘information which would impede process of investigation or prosecution of offenders’) of RTI Act, 2005 as this would not only impede the investigation or inquiry against him, but also impede the inquiries against all such erring employees who will be encouraged or tempted to use RTI for such private, illegal and vengeful purpose.” CIC further observed that RTI is not for the disgruntled employees facing disciplinary proceedings or selfish persons seeking private vengeance but for the people in general, only in public interest, and never for the private vengeance at all. While considering the matter as another case of misuse of RTI Act by the charge-sheeted employee, by instituting a parallel or counter interrogatory questionnaire through multiple questions under RTI Act, CIC rejected the appeal and directed the appellant to face the inquiry with all material he has and cooperate with the inquiry officer to complete the process in reasonable time. (Ram Kishan v. State Council of Educational Research & Training, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 4871, decided on 19-8-2015)

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): While observing that relationship between a person and counselor is fiduciary and personal in nature, CIC held that information regarding negotiation, mediation, conciliation and counseling between estranged couples and counselor falls under exempted clause of information of other spouse. “If RTI is allowed to be exercised in securing information about mediation, cantankerous spouse will exploit mediation as a source to get information with which they can harass the other spouse and use it in courts of law also,” noted the Commission. The order of Commission came upon an appeal filed by a woman who sought to know details of her conciliation proceedings before the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA). It was alleged by the woman that due to marital problems, she was referred for counseling under DSLSA and details of her conciliation proceedings before the DSLSA were most required in her domestic violence and divorce cases pending at Patiala House Courts. Earlier, she was denied the information by DSLSA on the ground that according to Rule 20 of Mediation & Conciliation Rules, 2004 proceedings of mediation and conciliation cannot be obtained and cannot be used for any purpose other than achieving conciliation. After perusing the relevant material on record, CIC observed that the proceeding related to the appellant before the DSLSA was not a divorce proceeding, but a counseling and conciliation proceeding, confidentiality of which need to be protected as per the law and in public interest. CIC further observed, “Information regarding negotiation, mediation, conciliation and counseling will fall under exempted clause of information of other spouse, being personal and given in fiduciary capacity and, no public interest is established in disclosure, while there is larger public interest in protecting that information as that would help mediation to flourish, hence such information shall not be disclosed.” (Rama Aggarwal v. Delhi State Legal Services Authority, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 4872, decided on 13-8-2015)

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC) : While rejecting the contention of Indian Potash Ltd. (IPL) that it does not fall within the purview of RTI Act as it was established under the Companies Act, 1956, CIC held that IPL is “public authority” under Section 2 (h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and hence, answerable to the citizens of India under the Act. The order of the Commission came upon an appeal filed by an RTI activist who sought information under the Act from IPL about the landed cost of Muriate of Potash (a common form of potash) imported by IPL during the period between April, 2009 to October, 2010. IPL denied disclosure of the said information on the ground that it having been incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 was not a “public authority” as defined under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005. Before Commission, appellant submitted that website of IPL reveals that it is controlled by the Government of India. IPL was established in the name of Indian Potash Supplying Agency (IPSA) by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. IPSA was converted into Indian Potash Ltd. and its members included Co-operative Sector and Public Sector Companies. It was further stated that as IPL has to appoint Managing Director with the concurrence of Government of India as stated in regulations of IPL Articles of Associations, it is clear that IPL is controlled by the Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers. Hence, IPL is a “public authority” as defined under Section 2(h) of RTI Act 2005. After perusal of material on record, CIC observed that IPL gives credit to the Government of India for structuring its share capital pattern and no Govt. official can hold the post of Chairperson or other Board member of a company as controlling affairs of the company unless the company is a Government company. Thus, it is apparent that the Govt. exercises its control over IPL through its officials, appointed as Board of Directors. CIC further noted that IPL is substantially financed indirectly by the appropriate Government. Commission also observed that IPL enjoys a monopoly status which is State conferred and was delivering a function for the benefit of farmers which is of public importance and closely related to Govt. function, hence, comes within the purview of “public authority” under Section 2 (h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005. CIC further directed IPL to designate public information officers (PIO) to answer the RTI queries and to post mandatory required information on its website. A. Ramanathan v. Indian Potash Ltd., 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 2910, decided on 09.07.2015

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): “The voter has a right to know, first that his name was deleted (from the voters’ list), then the reasons for decision to delete his name from the voters’ list,” observed CIC while directing Chief Election Officer (CEO) to pay a compensation of Rs 10,000 to a voter who was prevented from casting his vote, as his name was deleted from the voters’ list without informing him..The order of the Commission came upon an appeal filed by a person who sought information regarding exclusion of his name in the voters’ list. He wanted to know the procedure by which the name can be excluded and also that whether a person can be excluded from the voters’ list even when he has resided in the same address previously when he voted. As no information was provided to him by the Chief Election Officer, he approached the Commission. After perusing various provisions of Constitution of India and Representation of Peoples Act, 1951, Commission observed that CEO is entrusted with duty to prepare and publish a list of deletions proposed, notice about inquiry and to give reasonable opportunity to defend, before ordering deletion. While commenting upon the arbitrary action of CEO in the matter, CIC noted, “Such an arbitrary deletion and denial of information even after deletion, followed by non-response to RTI request for reasons for that deletion would certainly amount to denial of a very significant Constitutional & statutory right to vote and right to information under RTI Act.” The Commission directed CPIO of the Public Authory (Chief Election Officer) to show cause why penalty should not be imposed for not furnishing the information to the appellant about deletion of his name from the voter list and reasons for the deletion thereto; and not informing the appellant if any inquiry was conducted into the matter after such deletion; about the action proposed to be taken against officer responsible for deleting his name and when his name and right to vote will be restored. Apart from awarding compensation to the appellant, CIC also directed CPIO of Chief Election Officer to prepare a set of guidelines that needs to be followed before deleting names from the voters’ list and inform the affected voters of the proposed deletion giving opportunity to present their case. (Sumit v. Chief Election Officer, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 2909, decided on 29.07.2015)

 

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): While rejecting the contention of Construction Industry Development Council (CIDC) that it does not fall within the purview of RTI Act as it is a ‘Society’ registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, CIC held that CIDC is “public authority” under Section 2 (h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and hence, answerable to the citizens of India under the Act. The order of the Commission came upon a complaint filed by an RTI activist who sought information under the Act from CIDC about file-notings/correspondence/documents, etc., regarding establishing of CIDC by Planning Commission. Before Commission, CIDC submitted that it is a ‘Society’ registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 formed by various constituents of construction industry primarily comprising construction companies and industry associations as per the order of the Planning Commission. It was further started that it started functioning with a corpus of Rs.3 crores contributed by member construction companies and it is not substantially financed by the Government. It was also submitted that CIDC is now self-sufficient and independent of any government funding and hence cannot be termed as “public authority” under the Act. After perusal of the material on record and hearing both the parties, CIC observed that CIDC owes its origin to the office order of the Planning Commission of the Government of India thereby fulfilling the condition of the Section 2(h)(d) of the RTI Act. Commission further observed that without the financial aid of the Planning Commission, the CIDC was a loss incurring entity, struggling to exist and but for the financial aid received from the Government of India and its sources, it could not have sustained. Also, the Planning Commission continues to be a permanent member of the CIDC, with total exemptions regarding entrance and/or annual subscriptions. While concluding the discussion, Commission noted that, “the role of the Government is evidently deep and pervasive in the respondent organization (CIDC) right from its inception to funding, control and operations. Thus, we are of the considered opinion that the CIDC is substantially financed by the Central Government and is a fit organisation to be defined as ‘public authority’ under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.” Subhash Chandra Agrawal v. S.N. Murthy, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 2126, decided on 25.06.2015

 

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): While rejecting the contention of Construction Industry Development Council (CIDC) that it does not fall within the purview of RTI Act as it is a ‘Society’ registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, CIC held that CIDC is “public authority” under Section 2 (h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and hence, answerable to the citizens of India under the Act. The order of the Commission came upon a complaint filed by an RTI activist who sought information under the Act from CIDC about file-notings/correspondence/documents, etc., regarding establishing of CIDC by Planning Commission. Before Commission, CIDC submitted that it is a ‘Society’ registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 formed by various constituents of construction industry primarily comprising construction companies and industry associations as per the order of the Planning Commission. It was further started that it started functioning with a corpus of Rs.3 crores contributed by member construction companies and it is not substantially financed by the Government. It was also submitted that CIDC is now self-sufficient and independent of any government funding and hence cannot be termed as “public authority” under the Act. After perusal of the material on record and hearing both the parties, CIC observed that CIDC owes its origin to the office order of the Planning Commission of the Government of India thereby fulfilling the condition of the Section 2 (h)(d) of the RTI Act. Commission further observed that without the financial aid of the Planning Commission, the CIDC was a loss incurring entity, struggling to exist and but for the financial aid received from the Government of India and its sources, it could not have sustained. Also, the Planning Commission continues to be a permanent member of the CIDC, with total exemptions regarding entrance and/or annual subscriptions. While concluding the discussion, Commission noted that, “the role of the Government is evidently deep and pervasive in the respondent organization (CIDC) right from its inception to funding, control and operations. Thus, we are of the considered opinion that the CIDC is substantially financed by the Central Government and is a fit organisation to be defined as ‘public authority’ under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.” Subhash Chandra Agrawal v. S.N. Murthy, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 2126, decided on 25.06.2015

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): The FIR and charge sheet filed by Delhi Police on the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi must be disclosed, directed CIC while disposing of an appeal filed by an RTI activist in the matter. Said order of the Commission came upon an appeal filed by an RTI activist from Odisha who had made a seven-point application to the Ministry of Home Affairs seeking a copy of the FIR and charge sheet among other pieces of information including whether any post mortem was done as per law. The Ministry of Home Affairs forwarded the application to the National Archives of India and the Director of Gandhi Samriti and Darshan Samiti. It was informed by Gandhi Samriti and Darshan Samiti that no post-mortem examination was performed in the case as per the wishes of the family. Regarding the information on FIR and charge sheet, Gandhi Samriti and Darshan Samiti responded that they do no have any information related to the same as the investigation was carried out by Tughlak Road Police Station which had registered the FIR after the assassination. The National Archives of India also informed the appellant that he might visit its office to find out information required by him in keeping with the provisions of the Public Records Act, 1993 and Public Records Rules, 1997. While disposing of the appeal, CIC directed Ministry of Home Affairs to attempt another search in the matter and provide information to appellant. It was further directed that if the information in question is not available in Ministry of Home Affairs or Tughlak Road Police Station, the CPIO of the Home Ministry shall inform the appellant in writing. Hemanta Panda v. National Archives of India, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 2125, decided on 25.06.2015

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): CIC has directed Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) to disclose public information on distribution companies’ (DISCOMs) tariff petitions in simple and easy language with analysis and explanations so that a common man may understand and respond, before inviting their objections and views. The Commission was hearing a complaint filed by an activist who alleged that as the necessary information has not been placed in public domain by DERC which has sought people’s opinion on the tariff fixation; it was a violation of mandatory disclosure clause of the RTI Act. It was further alleged that if DERC applies the tariff fixation without disclosing the complete information and hearing the objections, it would cause irreparable loss to the consumers in Delhi and will result in undue benefits to the distribution companies. Earlier, the complainant had filed RTI application seeking information on Distribution Transformer Wise negative losses in respect of BRPL, BYPL, TPDDL for the year 2011-12 but was informed that comprehensive analysis of the losses in respect of DTs which record high losses while taking the energy supplied from the DTs would be submitted for further directions of the Commission but was not submitted. After perusal of relevant material on record and provisions of Electricity Act, 2003 and RTI Act, CIC observed that, “Under Section 4(1)(c) of RTI Act, read with relevant provisions of the Electricity Act, DERC has a responsibility to provide complete information about tariff fixation, which is something that affects millions of power consumers in the national capital.” The Commission also observed that Section 64(3) of Electricity Act mandates the DERC to publish the application, in such abridged form and manner as may be specified by the Commission. While rejecting the claim of DERC that details cannot be shared before a decision is taken, CIC noted that DERC has a mandate to inform the people while formulating the tariff because it is seeking their objections and views, which cannot be given without complete information. The Commission further directed DERC to pro-actively disclose information on controversial points like prudence check on electricity companies, non-submission of report on prudence check by consultant PWC, Income Tax issues, cost incurred by discoms in contesting cases in Supreme Court against CAG audit and CIC decision making them answerable under the RTI Act, among others. CIC also directed DERC to explain to the public the impact of these factors on consumer interests vis-a-vis profits earned by DISCOMs so that people and stakeholders can provide their views or objections based on a complete understanding of the matter. Anil Sood v. Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 609, decided on 09.05.2015

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): “Thesis submitted to a university is not private or personal information of the candidate who submitted it, but the property of the University, which has to discuss and decide whether it deserves the award of Ph.D or not”, held CIC while directing ARID Forest Research Institution to provide the copy of thesis sought by the appellant. The Commission was hearing an appeal filed by a researcher who alleged that her co-researcher cunningly took the theme and her work from her research work and submitted it as her thesis to the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, and hence, she must obtain the copy of the submitted thesis to prove her allegation. The appellant through RTI application sought copy of minutes of meeting of pre-thesis submission seminar of the researcher, copy of her thesis, all correspondence related to research work, rules and regulation of research work and related records. The appellant also submitted that she was denied information by ARID Forest Research Institution on the ground that the said information was third-party information. After perusing the material on record and hearing both the parties, CIC observed that, “One of the purposes of seminar of pre-submission and viva voce of Ph. D candidate is to ascertain whether research work of candidate is original and the work done by the candidate only. It is not third party information. Moreover, there is a public interest in knowing the originality of otherwise of the thesis, especially when a serious allegation of appropriating the research work is made by the co-researcher,  it is the duty of the academic institution to clear the allegation after due verification.” While ordering the disclosure of the required information, CIC also directed the Institute to treat the RTI application as a complaint against the researcher, against whom allegations were made and to carry out inquiry in the matter. Meeta Sharma v. PIO, ARID Forest Research Institution, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 606 , decided on 30.03.2015

High Courts

Delhi High Court: Deciding the issue that whether disclosure of personal information of the interviewers of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) selection committee falls within the purview of exceptions provided under Section 8 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (Act) which deals with exemption from disclosure of information, the Court held that UPSC is a public authority and disclosure of personal information of the employee of the aforesaid authority can be done only if the applicant is able to show that sustainable public interest is involved which in the present case respondent has failed to provide any specific reason as to why such disclosure is necessary for public interest. The Court elaborated that disclosure of personal information invades the right to privacy of a public officer which is a fundamental right in the Constitution. The Court further explained that a fiduciary relationship is established between examinee authority and an examiner/interviewer who expects his name and other particulars would not be disclosed to candidates and general public, therefore such disclosure of such details given in fiduciary capacity to UPSC would be violative of the provisions of the Section 8 (1); (e) of the Act.

In instant case where the counsel for petitioner Naresh Kaushik contended that disclosure of personal information would have caused unwarranted invasion of privacy of the members of the Selection Committee and might also put their life in danger on other hand counsel for respondent Shomona Khanna submitted that under Section 8 the competent authority has to decide whether to disseminate the information while keeping in mind the larger public interest and Central Information Commission has correctly done the same.

The Court also cited the Supreme Court decision on Bihar Public Service Commission v. Saiyad Hussain Abbas Rizvi (2012) 13 SCC 61 and held that disclosure of personal information may endanger the physical safety of an examinerinterviewer who under the apprehension of danger to his life may not able to perform his duties. Union Public Service Commission v. Dr. Mahesh Mangalat, 2015 SCC OnLine Del 8172, decided on 17.03.2015

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): “The records relating to rape victims cannot be totally blocked from sharing for research purposes on the ground of personal information under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act,” noted CIC while directing the Delhi Commission for Women to make public records of rapes committed in Delhi but with strict conditions to ensure that identities of victims are not disclosed. Said order was pronounced by the Commission while hearing an appeal filed by RTI applicant who sought information on rape victims for research purpose. Earlier the applicant approached the Secretary of the Department for the required information, who after knowing the purpose, refused to furnish the records. It was submitted by Delhi Commission for Women that the information sought by the applicant cannot be furnished as it would involve infringing the right of privacy of the accused and the victim as it was not possible to separate the names of the victims from various documents including medico-legal case reports. After perusal of records, the Commission observed that, “When it is possible to separate information that can be given from that cannot be given; the PIO has to invoke doctrine of severability to facilitate the information.” While setting strict guidelines for disclosure of sensitive information, CIC directed, “Facilitate inspection of the records to the authorized female representative of the appellant (applicant) with an assurance that they shall not bring any electronic device like video records, mobile, camera etc, block out the names and personal details of the victim and accused by whitener on the Photostat copies.” It was also directed that each paper shall be verified by the officials of Delhi Women Commission to ensure that nowhere victims’ names and private details are revealed before certifying. In addition, appellant was directed to enter a non-disclosure agreement with an undertaking that he/his representative will not reveal information about the personal details of the victims and the accused and that they shall be responsible for any such revelation through the documents shared. The applicant was further warned by the Commission that any such disclosure would not only result in the breach of undertaking but also an offence under the Indian Penal Code. “It shall be responsibility of the respondent authority to secure records, and the appellant (applicant) shall share the copy of the research report with the Women’s Commission and this Commission,” the Commission added. (Baladevan Rangaraju v. Delhi Commission for Women, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 602, decided on March 3, 2015

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): While observing that it is the bounden duty of Bar Council of India (BCI) to make all the previous question papers available to the young lawyers, CIC directed BCI to post on its website the question papers and keys of the All India Bar Examination on its website. CIC was hearing an appeal filed by an RTI activist who sought the copy of previous question papers prepared for the conduct of All India Bar Examination. Earlier, the information was not furnished to the appellant on the pretext that at that time the Bar Council was considering the policy decision as to disclosure of question papers. Before the Commission, BCI submitted that the copies of last three examination papers can be provided to the appellant but the copies of first three examinations cannot be provided as All India Bar Exams (AIBE) were conducted by private contractor Rainmaker, and BCI claimed that the company had not shared the first three AIBE question papers with the BCI. While rejecting the excuse of BCI that the question papers were not handed over to them by Rainmaker, CIC noted that, “If the firm which conducted tests has not handed over the copies of examination papers, the Bar Council of India should have initiated legal action to recover them.” The Commission observed that around 27000 young advocates could not clear this qualifying examination and every year law universities and law departments of other universities will be rolling out thousands of young law graduates, who are expected to take this mandatory examination. CIC directed the Public Authority to collect the copy of question papers with key for first three years from the Rainmaker firm which conducted examination, and keep the same on official website for the use of young lawyers. CIC also directed BCI to provide question papers along with the key on the official website immediately after completion of every Examination, as it would avoid exploitation of young lawyers by commercial elements through selling the question papers with key at exorbitant rates. (B.N. Reddy v. Bar Council of India, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 603, decided on 17-03-2015)

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): “Though certain documents like annual returns of assets, investments, IT returns etc were earlier declared as private/ personal or third party information, as far as spouses are concerned they are not private or personal or third party information between them, in the context of marital disputes especially for maintenance purposes”, held CIC while directing Delhi Transco Ltd. to provide property details, investments and assets of the husband, to an estranged wife and an alleged victim of domestic violence. This order of CIC came upon an appeal filed by a woman engaged in matrimonial and maintenance dispute with her husband who was a government employee and she sought to know details of his property including that given in dowry and action details against her husband for attempting to commit bigamy, etc. While rejecting the contention of Delhi Transco that income details of a person is “personal information”, CIC referred to the judgments of Delhi High Court, Kusum Sharma v. Mahinder Kumar Sharma, 2015 SCC OnLine Del 6793, decided on 14th January 2015) and Puneet Kaur v. Inderjit Singh Sawhney, 2011 SCC OnLine Del 3841, in which the court had asked both husband and wife to submit affidavits of income, assets and investments. CIC further observed that depending on the financial conditions and non-availability of support from parents, when husband does not maintain his wife, it challenges her right to live, and thus information related to maintenance becomes life related information. This information about assets, income and investments of spouses is no more private or personal information as against spouses, even if that information could be personal or private information as against any person other than spouse. The proviso to Section 8(1)(j) read with Section 8(2) of the Right to Information Act entitled the appellant to get information which she sought because of overwhelming public interest in securing the lives of deserted wives. So far, such information has been considered exempt under the RTI Act and treated as private or third party information. CIC also lashed the PIO and General Manager (HR) of Delhi Transco for suppressing the information and obstructing the furnishing of information to the appellant. (Prashansa Sharma v. Delhi Transco Ltd., 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 258, decided on February 3, 2015)

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): CIC has directed Aruna Asaf Ali Government Hospital to pay a token compensation of Rs.7,000/ for making an injured person to visit the office several times for giving the medico-legal case report (MLC report), which they were legally bound to give within 15 days. CIC was hearing an appeal filed by a person who was an outsourced employee in the Delhi Jal Board and his wages were to be paid by the L&T Company. He had alleged before Commission that the said company in connivance with the Delhi Jal Board has manhandled him and the relevant MLC report which is to be given by the respondent Hospital, has been deliberately delayed by the Hospital in collusion with his employers. The appellant further alleged that a false MLC has been issued, that too they have not sent any copy to the police directly, who have to register a case against the employers. After perusing the material on record, CIC observed that, “the appellant who is a daily bread earner, is made to undergo lot of hardship to get the MLC. As submitted by him, he was asked to come to the hospital on 6th, 9th, 10th 11th, 12th, 13th and 16th (7 days), was made to wait and was not given the MLC. Therefore, the Commission considers it a fit case for granting compensation to the appellant.” The Commission also directed the respondent authority to provide compensation to the appellant based on their rules and regulations for causing mental agony and not treating him properly in giving him necessary documents to pursue the process of filing a criminal case against the suspected culprits. (Rajeev Kumar v. Aruna Asaf Ali Govt. Hospital, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 259decided on February 10, 2015)

 

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): CIC has held that as soon as the final decision was taken with regard to the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, the matter was complete or over and the noting regarding the Cabinet decision should have been disclosed. The order of CIC was in response to an appeal filed by a person who had sought information on National Judicial Appointments Commissions Bill. Earlier, Law Ministry refused to disclose the Cabinet note about the decision to establish a National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) to the applicant on the ground that information sought was exempted u/S 8 (1)(i) of RTI act. The applicant had submitted before Commission that the decision of the PIO and the FAA have completely ignored the first proviso to Sec 8 (1)(i) of the RTI Act i.e the information regarding the cabinet decision cannot be withheld after the decision has been taken. He pleaded that there was no justification in withholding the requisite information in respect of the Cabinet decision regarding the appointment of Judicial Appointments Commissions bill cleared by the Cabinet. He further explained that the words “and the matter is complete, or over” in the aforesaid proviso relate to the cabinet decision and cannot be stretched to relate to subsequent action on the basis of the cabinet decision. It was further added that pendency of the Bill in Parliament, therefore, cannot be used as a ground to refuse to make public the information about cabinet decision and for any meaningful public debate such disclosure of information about the Bill is highly essential in the interest of transparency. After hearing the parties, Commission noted that with the passage of National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014 in Loksabha and Rajya Sabha, the protection afforded by Sec 8 (1)(i) does not apply and directed the concerned authority to provide the notings regarding the Cabinet decision to the applicant. (SN Shukla v. Department of Justice, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 2, decided on January 7, 2015)

 

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): “The land records containing the names of different owners and describing boundaries and extent of the land are public records and the information such as names of persons and the extent of land owned or possessed by the public authority is neither private information nor ‘third party’ information,” held CIC while directing the Delhi Government to consider displaying the land records on the prominent walls of villages for the convenience of the people as done in Telangana and several villages in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. This order of CIC came upon an appeal filed by a person who sought information regarding number of plot holders, land covered by the plots and the extent of the land left for agriculture in Kamabavala Village. Said information was denied by the Delhi government officials on the ground that property details of other persons available in land records of the village constitute the ‘third party’ information of various owners and thus could not be given under RTI to the appellant. The Commission rejected the said contention and observed that the land is open and transaction of change of ownership of a particular piece of land is registered with Registrar for being recorded as admissible evidence of that ownership for public to know. Registration is notification to society and evidence of the transaction and not an affair to be kept secret. CIC further observed that being a public record held by the Revenue Department, it is the duty of the public authority to provide access to the public, as transparency is the only way by which corruption can be prevented. “Transparency of the land records is the mandate as per the Right to Information Act, 2005 and Public Records Act, 1993”, noted CIC while directing Delhi government to provide relevant information to the appellant and also to explore writing the record of rights on the prominent walls in villages. (Surender Pal Singh v. Sub-Divisional Magistrate, GNCTD, Delhi, 2014 SCC OnLine CIC 10337, decided on December 29, 2014)

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

CIC has held that Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is allowed to withhold information regarding report of enquiry officer in probe into alleged short selling of shares by Reliance Industries Limited in 2007, observing that investigation in the matter is yet pending. The order of CIC came upon an appeal filed by a RTI activist who sought to know from SEBI the inspection report regarding the purported entities involved with RIL in the alleged short sale of shares of Reliance Petroleum in November 2007. The appellant also asked for information regarding various applications of consent order/terms offered by RIL and the entities involved charged under Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Trade Practices Regulations, entire papers in the file and file notings relating to the declining of the requests filed by RIL and other entities for the consent orders and for considering request for composition of offences under the Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Trade Practices Regulations, and also entire papers in the file and file notings relating to the latest pending requests filed by RIL and other entities for the consent orders and for considering request for composition of offences under the Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Trade Practices Regulations. Earlier, the said information was denied by SEBI on the ground that investigation had not concluded in the matter. After hearing both the parties, CIC noted that final orders in the matter were yet to be passed by the competent authority under the SEBI Act. Therefore, the process of investigation against the RIL was still pending before SEBI and it cannot be said the same has reached its conclusion. Hence, the requested information falls under exemption under Section 8(1); (h) of the Act. While declining to allow the disclosure of the required information, CIC further held, “We are of the view that the process of investigation against the RIL initiated by the SEBI is still continuing. Therefore, the disclosure of the requested information at this stage would impede the said process and defeat the purpose of the protection granted to such information. No concrete and tangible case of public interest has been made out by the appellant which may be described as overriding the protected interest.” (Arun Kumar Agrawal v. SEBI, 2014 SCC OnLine CIC 5983, decided on November 28, 2014)