Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

“Why is RBI fighting tooth and nail to defend defaulters?”

Central Information Commission (CIC): A Bench comprising of Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu issued a show-cause notice to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel holding him as deemed Public Information Officer (PIO) responsible for non-disclosure of a list of wilful defaulters of big bad loans worth crores of rupees.

A Jaipur-based RTI activist sought information from respondent about wilful defaulters of bank loans of Rs 50 crores and above, names of guarantors, details of sanction of loans, default and details of NPA accounts, and cost and investment of the projects for employment generating schemes initiated by the Central Government between 2005 and 2018 along with the list of failed projects. The CPIO dismissed the request stating that the information was not maintained in the form sought. Aggrieved by the said order, a first appeal was preferred wherein the reply of CPIO was upheld. The said circumstances necessitated the instant second appeal.

The Commission observed that RBI is a statutory regulatory authority whose function is to oversee the functioning of banks and the country’s banking sector. It is supposed to uphold public interest and not the interest of individual banks. Thus, RBI ought to act with transparency and not hide information that might embarrass individual banks. Financial institutions are obliged to provide all information to RBI and such information cannot be considered to be shared in the capacity of a fiduciary relationship. RBI was held to be duty bound to comply with provisions of RTI Act and disclose the information sought by the appellant.

Commission issued a show-cause notice to RBI Governor asking him to explain as to why maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 should not be imposed on him for wilful defiance of RTI provisions. It also directed RBI to disclose bad debt details of defaulters worth more than Rs 1000 crore at the beginning, Rs 500 crore or less at a later stage within five days and collect such information from the banks in due course to update their voluntary disclosures from time to time as a practice under Section 4(1)(b) of RTI Act. [Sandeep Singh Jadoun v. PIO, DGEAT, CIC/DGEAT/A/2018/117567, decided on 02-11-2018]



Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): A Single-Judge Bench comprising of Central Information Commissioner Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu issued a show-cause notice to Hockey India for not disclosing the information sought by the appellant.

BJP leader Kirti Azad filed an RTI application in the year 2015 seeking details of Hockey India League’s (HIL) registration certificate, details of expenditure, sponsorship, commission paid for getting sponsorships, and expenditure incurred in availing legal services along with the names of lawyers engaged by Hockey India (HI) and HIL in the last 2 years. Respondent responded stating that HIL is organized under the aegis of the Hockey India and the websites of HI and HIL contain the information sought. Dissatisfied with the response, appellant filed a first appeal which was responded by the first appellate authority stating that the information pertaining to sponsorships, fee paid to lawyers, etc fell within the domain of confidential information and hence due it could not be disclosed. Thereafter, the appellant moved to CIC which directed respondent to disclose the desired information. But the respondent moved to Delhi High Court challenging the said order, which remanded the matter back to CIC for fresh consideration. Hence, the present appeal.

Respondent contended that the RTI application was vitiated by private motives aimed at targeting a cabinet minister. However, this submission was dismissed holding that motives behind filing an RTI are irrelevant and the burden lies on the public authority to prove the invocation of an exception for denial of information.

Further, respondent averred that since the information pertaining to sponsors, commission, legal expenses, and lawyers engaged, etc. was confidential in nature; they could submit the same in sealed cover. Further, throughout the proceedings, respondent maintained the position that HIL is not connected to HI and thus it cannot be obliged to disclose information about HIL.

After hearing arguments on behalf of both the parties, the Commission made the following observations:

  • Financial details in the copy of sponsorship agreements submitted in sealed cover had been redacted as HI did not want the Bench to peruse the original agreements.
  • It dismissed HI’s argument that since the commission paid for securing sponsorship was not paid out of public money, such information need not be disclosed. CIC held the classification between expenditure by public money and non-public money, as illogical.
  • On the issue of names of lawyers engaged and fee paid to them, the Bench remarked that non-disclosure of the said information might be due to fear of being exposed to some serious scandal as HI might have paid huge amounts to non-eligible persons. This clearly fell within the scope of the public’s interest.
  • HI could not invoke Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act to exempt itself from disclosing information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property. Assuming that the sponsorship fee is in the nature of commercial confidence, HI had to prove whether there is any competition and by disclosing the information sought, what kind of harm would be caused.
  • Hockey India is not a sovereign entity and sport of hockey cannot be used for profit generation activities.

With the aforesaid observations, the Commission issued show cause notice to HI’s former president and present secretary-general Rajinder Singh asking him why maximum penalty should not be imposed against him, HI’s CPIO and the first appellate authority for not disclosing the information sought. [Kirti Azad v. CPIO, M/o Youth Affairs & Sports,2018 SCC OnLine CIC 1543, decided on 22-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Sangita Dhingra Sehgal and G.S. Sistani, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed by the husband against the award of maintenance pendente lite awarded to the wife by the family court.

The instant appeal was filed by the husband under Section 19 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 assailing  the order passed by the family court where the appellant was directed to pay Rs 4500 per month as maintenance to the respondent-wife under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act (maintenance pendente lite)  from the date of filing of the application. The husband submitted that as he was a permanent resident of U.P., the Minimum Wages Act of Delhi would not be applicable to him.

The High Court perused Section 24 and noted that it empowers the Court to award maintenance pendente lite and litigation expenses to a party who has no independent source of income sufficient for his/her support during the pendency of proceedings. Reference was made to Jasbir Kaur Sehgal v. District Judge, (1997) 7 SCC 7. The Court observed that in the present case, the husband failed to produce any documentary proof with regard to his employment status and also his actual income; and by not disclosing his source of income the husband was trying to defeat the legitimate right of the wife to claim maintenance. Furthermore, the appellant could not be allowed to take benefit of non-disclosure of his income despite being bound in law to disclose it. Thus, the plea of the husband that Minimum Wages Act of U.P. is applicable to him doesn’t come to his rescue. The appeal was accordingly dismissed. [Vijay Kushwaha v. Chanchal,2018 SCC OnLine Del 10828, dated 24-07-2018]