Don’t exempt public bodies from RTI: CIC to ministries

Don’t exempt public bodies from RTI: CIC to ministries

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked ministries and government departments to refrain from exempting public bodies from the purview of RTI Act, adding that it was the “competent authority" for taking such a decision.

The ruling came after the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), declining information on certain bonds of IFCI Ltd to Mumbai resident V T Gokhale, concurred with the Finance Ministry which kept the company out of the purview of the transparency law.

The order was passed despite IFCI being directed earlier by the Commission to comply with the provisions of the RTI Act.

“The fact whether an entity is a public authority or not is to be determined under the provisions of the RTI Act and by the authority competent to take such decision.

Not only it is incorrect for such entities like IFCI, to seek such certificates from the ministries/departments, it is even more incorrect for such ministries/departments to issue such certificates," Information Commissioner A N Tiwari said in his decision.

The Commission in its earlier decision on May 31 this year had ruled IFCI to be a “public authority" under the RTI Act, after noting that as on March 31, the government provided for 23.53 per cent of the company’s finances.

It also noted that although IFCI was presently a private company, it was established by the government as part of a parliamentary legislation in 1948. The Commission directed it to comply to the norms as prescribed under the RTI Act.

While differing from the regulator’s decision to deny the information to Gokhale, the Commission said, “...SEBI has uncritically accepted the so-called certificate from the Ministry of Finance as a final proof that IFCI is not a public authority."

The CIC which sent back Gokhale’s RTI request to the appellate information officer of SEBI to consider further said, “They (SEBI) are require to examine this claim of IFCI (to seek exemption) under provisions of RTI Act and the decisions of the Commission in this regard."