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)

 

 

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)