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B. Alphonse Legori v/s CPIO /Manager United India Insurance Company Ltd.


Company & Directors' Information:- UNITED INDIA INSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED [Active] CIN = U93090TN1938GOI000108

Company & Directors' Information:- J B UNITED PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U93000MH2014PTC258844

Company & Directors' Information:- J B UNITED PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74999MH2014PTC258844

Company & Directors' Information:- UNITED CORPORATION LIMITED [Liquidated] CIN = U99999TN1942PLC003159

    Second Appeal No. CIC/UIICL/A/142410 of 2018-BJ

    Decided On, 31 January 2020

    At, Central Information Commission

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. BIMAL JULKA
    By, INFORMATION COMMISSIONER

    For the Appearing Parties: -------



Judgment Text


Facts:

The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 07 points with regard to the copy of the order issued by UIICL Agent Code (as mentioned) to act as Agent, the details of business activities for the Financial Year wise 01.04.2010 to 31.03.2017 and other issues related thereto.

The CPIO, vide its letter dated 09.03.2018, denied disclosure of information under section 8(1) (d), (e), & (j) of the RTI Act, 2005 and expressed its inability to provide the information. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA, vide its order dated 13.04.2018, upheld the CPIO's response.

Hearing:

Facts emerging during the hearing:

The following were present:

Appellant: Mr. B. Alphonse Legori through VC;

Respondent: Mr. K. Subramani, Regional Manager and CPIO through VC;

The Appellant reiterated the contents of the RTI application and stated that the information sought was wrongly denied by the CPIO/FAA under Section 8(1) (d) (e) and (j) of the RTI Act, 2005. He further referred to the decision of the Commission in Appeal No. CIC/POSTS/A/2017/188433 dated 01.01.2018 wherein the Commission had directed the Respondent, Department of Posts, to provide certified copies of Annual Reports of the concerned region/Division from 2013 to 2016, which contains information pertaining to Tuticorin office, within 15 days. Therefore, he prayed to the Commission to furnish the desired documents with reference to the above decision of the Commission. In its reply, the Respondent reiterated the replies of the CPIO/FAA and further submitted that the required information pertains to the personal details of Agent Code (No. as mentioned in the RTI application), accordingly, it was referred for the opinion of the Agent who denied sharing any personal information citing the involvement of his privacy. It was further informed that the information sought was held in its fiduciary capacity and therefore, it was denied under Section 8(1) (e) of the RTI Act, 2005. Moreover, as regards the details of business activities carried out by Public Authority for Agents, etc., it was submitted that the same contained commercially sensitive information relating to the functioning of the public authority, disclosure of which would harm the competitive position. On being queried by the Commission regarding the larger public interest involved in disclosure of information, the Appellant submitted that UIICL is a Central Government Organization and that their Agents were allegedly involved in a large scale corruption and therefore to unearth the corrupt practices, he desired to possess the requisite information. It was also submitted that he had made a complaint to the CMD / CVO, UIICL, but no reply had been received from them. The Respondent however submitted that no such irregularities had ever been brought to their knowledge.

2. The Commission was in receipt of a written submission from the Respondent dated 22.01.2020 wherein a point-wise detailed clarification was provided stating that the information sought was denied under Section 8(1)(d) and (j) of the RTI Act, 2005.

3. The Commission referred to the definition of information under section 2(f) of the RTI Act, 2005 which is reproduced below:

"information" means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, emails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, report, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force."

4. Furthermore, a reference can also be made to the relevant extract of Section 2 (j) of the RTI Act, 2005 which reads as under:

"(j) right to information" means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes ........"

5. In this context a reference was made to the Hon'ble Supreme Court decision in 2011 (8) SCC 497 (CBSE v. Aditya Bandopadhyay), wherein it was held as under:

35..... "It is also not required to provide 'advice' or 'opinion' to an applicant, nor required to obtain and furnish any 'opinion' or 'advice' to an applicant. The reference to 'opinion' or 'advice' in the definition of 'information' in section 2(f) of the Act, only refers to such material available in the records of the public authority. Many public authorities have, as a public relation exercise, provide advice, guidance and opinion to the citizens. But that is purely voluntary and should not be confused with any obligation under the RTI Act."

6. Furthermore, the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in Khanapuram Gandaiah v. Administrative Officer and Ors. Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.34868 OF 2009 (Decided on January 4, 2010) had held as under:

6. "....Under the RTI Act "information" is defined under Section 2(f) which provides:

"information" means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, emails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, report, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force."

This definition shows that an applicant under Section 6 of the RTI Act can get any information which is already in existence and accessible to the public authority under law. Of course, under the RTI Act an applicant is entitled to get copy of the opinions, advices, circulars, orders, etc., but he cannot ask for any information as to why such opinions, advices, circulars, orders, etc. have been passed."

7. "....the Public Information Officer is not supposed to have any material which is not before him; or any information he could have obtained under law. Under Section 6 of the RTI Act, an applicant is entitled to get only such information which can be accessed by the "public authority" under any other law for the time being in force. The answers sought by the petitioner in the application could not have been with the public authority nor could he have had access to this information and Respondent No. 4 was not obliged to give any reasons as to why he had taken such a decision in the matter which was before him."

7. The Commission observed that a voluntary disclosure of all information that ought to be displayed in the public domain should be the rule and members of public who having to seek information should be an exception. An open government, which is the cherished objective of the RTI Act, can be realised only if all public offices comply with proactive disclosure norms. Section 4(2) of the RTI Act mandates every public authority to provide as much information suomotu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including the Internet, so that the public need not resort to the use of RTI Act.

8. The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in the matter of CBSE and Anr. v. Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors 2011 (8) SCC 497 held as under:

"37. The right to information is a cherished right. Information and right to information are intended to be formidable tools in the hands of responsible citizens to fight corruption and to bring in transparency and accountability. The provisions of RTI Act should be enforced strictly and all efforts should be made to bring to light the necessary information under Clause (b) of Section 4(1) of the Act which relates to securing transparency and accountability in the working of public authorities and in discouraging corruption."

9. The Commission also observes the Hon'ble Delhi High Court ruling in WP (C) 12714/2009 Delhi Development Authority v. Central Information Commission and Another (delivered on: 21.05.2010), wherein it was held as under:

"16.It also provides that the information should be easily accessible and to the extent possible should be in electronic format with the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be. The word disseminate has also been defined in the explanation to mean - making the information known or communicating the information to the public through notice boards, newspapers, public announcements, media broadcasts, the internet, etc. It is, therefore, clear from a plain reading of Section 4 of the RTI Act that the information, which a public authority is obliged to publish under the said section should be made available to the public and specifically through the internet. There is no denying that the petitioner is duty bound by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 of the RTI Act to publish the information indicated in Section 4(1)(b) and 4(1)(c) on its website so that the public have minimum resort to the use of the RTI Act to obtain the information."

10. Furthermore, High Court of Delhi in the decision of General Manager Finance Air India Ltd & Anr v. Virender Singh, LPA No. 205/2012, Decided On: 16.07.2012 had held as under:

"8. The RTI Act, as per its preamble was enacted to enable the citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. An informed citizenry and transparency of information have been spelled out as vital to democracy and to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed. The said legislation is undoubtedly one of the most significant enactments of independent India and a landmark in governance. The spirit of the legislation is further evident from various provisions thereof which require public authorities to:

A. Publish inter alia:

i) the procedure followed in the decision making process;

ii) the norms for the discharge of its functions;

iii) rules, regulations, instructions manuals and records used by its employees in discharging of its functions;

iv) the manner and execution of subsidy programmes including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes;

v) the particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorizations granted. [see Section 4(1) (b), (iii), (iv), (v); (xii) & (xiii)].

B. Suo moto provide to the public at regular intervals as much information as possible [see Section 4(2)]."

11. The Hon'ble High Court of Bombay in the matter of Sayyed Education Society v. State of Maharashtra, WP 1305/2011 dated 12.02.2014 had held that public authorities are under a statutory obligation to maintain records and disseminate as per the provisions of the Section 4 of the RTI Act, 2005. The High Court in this respect, held as under:

"Needless to state that as observed by the Hon'ble Apex Court in paragraph No. 14 in the case of CBSE and Another (supra), Public Authorities are under an obligation to maintain records and disseminate the information in the manner provided under Section 4 of the RTI act. The submission of the petitioner that it is an onerous task to supply documents, therefore is required to be rejected. The Law mandates preserving of documents, supplying copies thereof to the applicant, in our view, cannot be said to be an onerous task."

12. Above all the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in the decision of R.B.I. and Ors. v. Jayantilal N. Mistry and Ors, Transferred Case (Civil) No. 91 of 2015 (Arising out of Transfer Petition (Civil) No. 707 of 2012 decided on 16.12.2015 had held as under:

"The ideal of 'Government by the people' makes it necessary that people have access to information on matters of public concern. The free flow of information about affairs of Government paves way for debate in public policy and fosters accountability in Government. It creates a condition for 'open governance' which is a foundation of democracy."

13. Furthermore, in this context a reference was also made to the OM no. No.1/6/2011-IR dated 15.04.2013 issued by the DoP&T pertaining to guidelines for the implementation of suo motu disclosures under Section 4 of the RTI Act, 20

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05. Decision: 14. Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties and taking into consideration the allegations levelled by the Appellant regarding the large scale malpractices in the appointments of Agents who did not possess the requisite qualifications, the Commission advises the CMD, United India Insurance Company Ltd, Chennai, to consider examining the matter at an appropriate level for further necessary action. The Commission also directs the Respondent Public Authority to suo moto disclose the Agents details along with their licenses, etc., on their website in compliance with Section 4 (1) (b) of the RTI Act, 2005 for the benefit of public at large and to maintain transparency and accountability in the public authority to obviate the necessity of any of the stakeholders to resort to RTI mechanism to secure such information. The Respondent was also advised to endorse a copy of their written submission sent to the Commission to the Appellant, as well. 15. The Commission also instructs the Respondent Public Authority to convene periodic conferences/seminars to sensitize, familiarize and educate the concerned officials about the relevant provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 for effective discharge of its duties and responsibilities. 16. The Appeal stands disposed with the above directions.
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