Indian Potash Ltd. is “public authority” under RTI Act

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

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