Case BriefsHigh Courts

“Transparency of information is vital in curbing corruption. The approach of the court must be to attenuate the area of secrecy as much as possible consistently with the requirement of public interest.”

 Kerala High Court: The Division Bench of V. Chitambaresh and R. Narayana Pisharadi, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed by a co-operative society against an order directing furnishing of information sought under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

Appellant – an agricultural development bank – was incorporated under the provisions of the Kerala Co-operative Societies Act, 1969. Respondent’s 4 and 5 sought certain information from the respondent 1 under the RTI Act relating to grant of loans and expenses incurred by the appellant in connection with the cases instituted with regard to certain loan transactions. Appellant was directed by first respondent to furnish the required information to the respondent’s 4 and 5. The said order was challenged in a writ petition wherein the learned Single Judge directed 1st respondent to hear the appellant and 4th respondent and any other interested party before furnishing information to the applicants.

Appellant’s contentions were: (i) that it is not a public authority under RTI Act and thus not liable to furnish the information, and (ii) that the first respondent had no authority to collect information from the appellant, and to furnish such information to respondent’s 4 and 5.

The Court noted that being a cooperative society, appellant was not a ‘public authority’ under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act. Hence, it was not legally obliged to furnish any information sought for by a citizen under RTI Act. However, placing reliance on Thalappalam Service Co-operative Bank Limited v. State of Kerala, (2013) 16 SCC 82 it was opined that Registrar of Cooperative Societies can collect such information from the appellant which he is otherwise empowered to collect under the Kerala Cooperative Societies Act, and furnish that information to the applicant, subject to the restrictions under Section 8 of the RTI Act.

It was observed that the appellant’s case was not that it has no obligation under the Kerala Co-operative Societies Act to provide the information sought for. The right to privacy of a third party was protected by the direction issued by the learned Single Judge to hear the appellant and other interested persons before furnishing the information to the applicants. In view thereof, the writ appeal was dismissed.[Kunnathunad Taluk Primary Co-Operative Agricultural and Rural Development Bank Ltd. v. Registrar of Co-Operative Societies, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 726, Order dated 26-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A Division Bench comprising of V. Chitambaresh and R. Narayana Pisharadi, JJ. allowed a writ appeal challenging imposition of exemplary costs for the sole reason that the bank was not represented by its Secretary.

The appellant herein had filed a writ petition under Kerala Co-operative Societies Act, 1969 challenging the Electoral Officer’s refusal to accept list of members eligible to vote. Since the bank’s Secretary had some physical disability, the President of appellant bank was authorised to file the petition. When it was pointed out that there was no written resolution of the Managing Committee in this regard, the President sought permission to withdraw the petition to enable a properly framed writ petition to be filed by the Secretary representing the bank. However, the learned Single Judge declined the same and dismissed the petition imposing cost of Rs 25,000. Aggrieved thereby, the present writ appeal was filed.

The Court opined that while a co-operative bank or a society must normally be represented by its Secretary as stated in its bye-laws, the President who is duly elected by the members of the Managing Committee of bank stands on a better pedestal than any other member even without a resolution. He can maintain a writ petition in his personal capacity as he is the head of ‘committee’ under Section 2(e) of the Act. Further, absence of resolution empowering the President is a curable defect.

Reliance was also placed on the judgment in Ashok Kumar Mittal v. Ram Kumar Gupta, (2009) 2 SCC 656 where it was held that costs should not be imposed to create a corpus for the State Legal Services Authority. 

In view of the above, the impugned order was set aside.[Thelliyoor Service Co-Operative Bank Ltd. v. State Co-Operative Election Commission, 2018 SCC OnLine Ker 7418, decided on 20-12-2018]