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)

 

 

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC):While reiterating that personal information can be disclosed in the larger public interest, CIC directed Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to declare the assets and liabilities of its present Chairman. The order came upon an appeal filed by an RTI activist alleging that the said information was denied by SEBI claiming that it is personal information and that the same is provided to SEBI in fiduciary capacity. The term of the present Chairman of SEBI started in February 2011 and he has been appointed for a period of three years. The appellant contended that the information relating to the emoluments of the chairman were to be disclosed on the website of Sebi as per Section 4(1)(b)(x) of the RTI Act. The appellant also alleged that the present Chairman gave up a job of very high emoluments, to dilute the cases of some major defaulters in the capital market, hence, the details on assets and liabilities must be disclosed in larger public interest. After hearing both the parties, the Commission was convinced with the arguments of appellant for ordering disclosure of the information in larger public interest. CIC observed, “This commission recognises the perspective brought out on public interest in Section 8(2) of the Act in the course of the hearing. The appellant underlined the dimensions of public interest overriding the protected interest, i.e., the protection given to the ‘fiduciary’ and ‘personal information’ elements.” “Taking into account the arguments of the appellant, this appears to be fit case where the requested information should be disclosed in larger public interest,” the Commission added. (Arun Kumar Agrawal v. SEBI, 2014 SCC OnLine CIC 5983, decided on November 28, 2014)

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): “Assuming for a moment that the information about ‘action taken’ on request for probe against former CJI is privileged, such ‘privilege’ is not expressly provided as ground for rejection of request for information under Section 8(1);”, held CIC while directing the Department of Legal Affairs to provide the action taken information about request for probe about former CJI Justice K G Balakrishnan to the appellant. The Court was hearing an appeal filed by RTI activist challenging the denial of Law Ministry to disclose the action taken on a request for probe about former Chief Justice of India, KG Balakrishnan for alleged misconduct. Through his RTI application, appellant had sought copies of correspondence, file notings, documents, etc. on action taken report on his request. The said information was not provided by the ministry to the appellant. After perusal of records, Court noted that, “under Section 8(1)(c) information, disclosure of which would cause breach of privilege of Parliament or State Legislature cannot be given. The information sought has nothing to do with the privilege of Parliament or State Legislature. The Correspondence between Executive about a former CJI is not privileged correspondence as per any provision of RTI Act or Constitution of India. It is not information given in fiduciary relationship.” The Commission further observed that non-disclosure of what appellant sought would not serve any public interest, would not harm any protected interest and in fact, public interest in its disclosure would outweigh the probable harm, if any, to protected (if at all protected) interests. (Subhash Chand Agrawal v. Department of Legal Affairs, 2014 SCC OnLine CIC 4528, decided on November 21, 2014)

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): CIC has held that disclosure of information regarding the meetings of the Court relating to the setting up of benches of the Supreme Court outside Delhi is exempt under Section 8(1); (a) of the RTI Act. Court was hearing an appeal filed by a person who sought information about the copies of minutes of the meeting of the full court of the Supreme Court, the file notings and letters sent by the Chief Justice of India to the Parliamentary Standing Committee relating to the setting up of benches of the Supreme Court outside Delhi. Disclosure of the said information was denied by Supreme Court on the ground that the resolutions of the full court meetings of the Supreme Court are based on opinions expressed confidentially by the Judges in the course of discussions, hence, are confidential and that divulging the same would make the system unworkable in practice. The applicant contended that the comments or views expressed during the full court meetings are not personal and are part of the decision making process in a matter and mere confidentiality is not a ground to claim exemption. He further submitted that in the interest of democracy and transparency, the minutes of the various committees of the Supreme Court cannot be withheld. In its defense, Supreme Court stated that the said information cannot be divulged under Section 8(1); (a) of the Act as the issue relating to the setting up of benches of the Supreme Court outside Delhi is a sensitive issue and its disclosure would lead to politicization of the matter. It was also stated that the disclosure will not be in the interest of the efficient functioning of the Supreme Court and would also compromise the internal security interest of the country due to potential law and order problems. After hearing both the parties, CIC rejected the appeal and noted, “We find force in the arguments of the respondent that the information sought, if disclosed at this stage, could lead to needless controversy of a political nature, which should best be avoided taking into account the need for efficient functioning of the Supreme Court. It is felt that the disclosure of this sensitive information could arouse regional feelings leading to law and order problems. Hence, this case falls under Section 8(1); (a) of the Act.”(Rajiv Rufus v. Smita Vats Sharma2014 SCC OnLine CIC 4527, decided on October 31, 2014)

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): CIC has observed that the RTI Act did not give any specific or special exemption to share personal information with the spouses; hence information regarding salary details of a woman cannot be given by a public authority even to her husband under the Right to Information Act as it is personal information. CIC was hearing an appeal filed by a husband seeking information regarding the salary details of his wife. The court held that amount of Salary and the details of pay-scale of a public servant can be part of voluntarily disclosable information under Section 4(1)(b), whereas deductions, personal loans, details of net or gross salary  paid  for a  particular  month, or  seeking  a salary  slip  (payment voucher) and residential addresses are not disclosable, unless larger public interest is involved. If an RTI application is filed for that information, the larger public interest has to be examined by the Public Authorities. While rejecting the plea of the husband, CIC noted that when couples are entangled in legal disputes such as marital claims or cruelty charges, the privacy of individual spouse assumes importance in the context of demand for information and when the spouse does not consent to give information, a citizen, even if a spouse, has no right to information about deductions and expenditure from salary, as that would amount to personal information unless it is in larger public interest. The Commission also cautioned the PIO in the case to be careful in future in disclosing personal information of the ‘third party’. (Dr. Dheeraj Kapoor v. Directorate of Health Services, 2014 SCC OnLine CIC 4526, decided on October 31, 2014)

Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): “Records cannot be destroyed after RTI application   is   filed,   even   if   it   outlived   the   time   prescribed   under   weeding   out   policy   and   if destroyed like that, it would invite the penalty under Section 20 of RTI Act,” held CIC while hearing the plea of a complainant who sought some information with regard to appointment of Associate Professor from Delhi Technological University but was denied on the ground that records carrying the information have been destroyed.  Earlier the complainant had approached Delhi Technological University seeking information regarding criteria   for   selection to the post of Assistant Professor, marks   secured   by   the   complainant   including   the   interview and minimum marks fixed for selection to the said post but no details were furnished to the complainant on pretext of destruction of concerned records. While coming down heavily upon the University Authorities, CIC asked them to explain the Commission whether they were following the provisions of the Public Records Act,   1993   in   destroying   the   old   records,   made   any   rules   for   their   office,   who   is   in charge   of implementation   of   those   rules,   when   the   particular   information   sought   by   complainant  was destroyed   and   what   is   the   file   noting   about   that   file   before   it  was   weeded   out. CIC further issued show cause to the Public Authority of the University for making a wrong claim of weeding the record and for not   furnishing   the   information   to   the   applicant. (Ashok Kr. Dixit v. Delhi Technological University, 2014 SCC OnLine CIC 3161, decided on October 9, 2014)