Centre must give info on firms with minority govt stake: CIC
In a significant decision, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has held that the Union Government has to reveal information about companies even if it does not hold a controlling stake in them.
A three-member bench of the Commission held this while hearing an RTI plea that challenged government's refusal to disclose details on fixed assets of BALCO saying it had no managerial control on the company after its disinvestment of 51 per cent stake to Sterlite Industries.
"Being a shareholder of the company, with representation on its board of management, the information must be available with the Ministry of Mines, and what is available with it can not be denied under Right to Information Act," the bench headed by Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said in an order passed yesterday.
The Commission also directed the government to reveal details of its investment, if any, in the company's 540 MW captive power project set up at Korba in Chattisgarh.
"The argument that the information is not available with the Ministry is untenable. If it has made any investments, it should be so stated. If no investment has been made, then also reply to that effect must be given," the CIC said.
The Commission was hearing an application of Korba resident Laxmi Chauhan, who sought the information to find out as to whether BALCO had received any government investment in its power project that was operationalised in 2005.
Chauhan's RTI plea filed last year was refused by the Ministry on the ground that it was a minority stakeholder in BALCO and did not have a control over the company's management.
Re: Centre must give info on firms with minority govt stake: CIC
Since this is a important decision of the full bench of the CIC, I am attaching it here.
The CIC has carefully put forth its arguments with various citations but has skirted the issue of BALCO being a PA as defined in Section 2(h).
However, it has granted access to the information under Section 2(f):
"....any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force. "
The other main point to be noted here is that the applicant was smart enough NOT to address the RTI Application to BALCO , but to the Ministry of Mines...this resulted in a favourable decision from the CIC.