INFORMATION DISSEMINATED TO PUBLIC OR ACCESSIBLE TO CITIZENS UNDER SEC-4(1) & OTHER STATUTORY PROVISIONS ARE NOT INFORMATION ACCESSIBLE UNDER RTI ACT
INFORMATION “HELD BY OR UNDER THE CONTROL OF PUBLIC AUTHORITY” – INTERPRETED BY HON'BLE DELHI HIGH COURT
‘Right to information’, is defined as ‘the right to information accessible under this Act (RTI Act), which is held by or under the control of any public authority’. Way back in 2006, the issue regarding information accessible under another statute (Companies Act) came up before Central Information Commission for adjudication in the case of Arun Verma Vs. Dept of Company Affairs. Prof. M.M. Ansari, then Information Commissioner held that there is already a provision under the Companies Act (Sec-610) and the Appellant may accordingly approach the Registrar of Companies as advised by the Appellate Authority to obtain the relevant information.
Same issue came up again before Sh. A.N. Tiwari, Information Commissioner in the case of Sh. K. Lall Vs. Sh. M. K . Bagri, Assistant Registrar of Companies & CPIO, [CIC/AT/A/2007/00112] decided on 12/04/2007. The arguments raised by the Public Authority before the Commission was that once they have put some information in the public domain and put a price on accessing that information, they cannot be said to hold control of that information in terms of Section 2(j) of the RTI Act. If any application is made under RTI Act to access such already disclosed information, it would suffice if the public authority informed the applicant where and how to access that information and also the fact that it was already in the public domain. They have pointed out that the pricing of access to such documents is equivalent to putting a price on a publication brought out by a public authority. Once an information is either placed in the public domain through a website or through a public announcement about the availability of that information in public domain on payment of a predetermined price, or by bringing out a priced publication, the information is automatically excluded from the purview of the RTI Act, at least in regard to the methodology and the fee for accessing that information.
The Central Information Commissioner observed –
The chronology of CIC Decisions on information ‘held by’ or ‘under the control of the public authority’ would show that except Sh. Shailesh Gandhi, all other Information Commissioners concurred with the view of Prof M.M. Ansari in the case of Arun Verma Vs. Dept of Company Affairs decided on 29.03.2006 [CIC/MA/A/2006/00016] in which it was held that there is already a provision for seeking information under the Companies Act. The appellant may accordingly approach the Registrar of the Companies (ROC), as advised by the appellate authority, to obtain the relevant information. There is no question of denial of information to him.
This was followed by decision of Information Commissioner, Sh. A.N. Tiwari, in the case of Sh. K. Lall Vs. Sh. M. K . Bagri, Assistant Registrar of Companies & CPIO, [CIC/AT/A/2007/00112], decided on 12/04/2007 in which the Commission considered the issue with regard to interplay between Section 610 of the Companies Act and the rights of a citizen to obtain information under RTI Act. Sh. A.N. Tiwari by a detailed and considered decision held that information which can be accessed by resort to Section 610 of the Companies Act cannot be accessed by resort to the provisions of the RTI Act.
This view was again followed by Sh. A.N. Tiwari in a subsequent order dt 29.08.2007 in the case of “Shriram (Dada) Tichkule Vs. P.K.Galchor, Assistant Registrar of Companies ” [CIC/AT/A/2007/ 00723]. This view was also followed in the case of Sh. Sonal Amit Shah Vs. Registrar of Companies [CIC/MA/A/2008/00062 & 63] dt 31.03.2008 and various other decisions
Thereafter, Central Information Commissioner (Sh. Shailesh Gandhi) in the case of Dharmendra Kumar Garg Vs RoC [Decision No. CIC/SG/C/2009/000702/4128 & Adjunct Complaint No. CIC/SG/C/ 2009/ 000702] decided on 10-09-2009 took a different view and held that –
In the Adjunct proceedings, the show cause was closed since the information has been supplied and the commission felt that there was reasonable cause for denial of the information.
During pendency of the Adjunct proceedings, the Public Authority approached the Delhi High Court. Hon'ble Delhi HC decided the matter vide judgment dt: 01/06/2012 and held that :
During pendency of the WP before the Delhi HC, in the case of Smt. Dayawati Sharma Vs. Registrar of Companies [ CIC/SS/C/2011/ 000607] decided on 23.03.2012, once again the same issue had been raised and the Central Information Commissioner has preferred to follow the view of Sh. A.N. Tiwari in the case of K. Lall Vs. Ministry of Company Affairs [supra].
Subsequent to Delhi HC decision, in the Case of S.K. Sharma Vs CBSE [CIC/RM/A/2012/001337] decided on 07/08/2013, the issue of accessibility to the information through departmental route has been upheld by Central Information Commissioner Sh. Rajiv Mathur, and followed the ratio laid down by Delhi HC in RoC’s case
In summation, the right of the citizen under the RTI Act is to obtain information ‘held by or under the control of any public authority’ i.e. information, which is held by the public authority under its control to the exclusion of others. It cannot mean ‘information’ which the public authority has already disseminated and shared generally with citizens, and also that information, in respect of which there is a statutory mechanism evolved (independent of the RTI Act) which obliges the Public Authority to share the same with the citizenry by following the prescribed procedure, and upon fulfillment of the prescribed conditions. Information already disseminated under Sec-4 of the RTI Act, thus, do not fall within the ambit of Sec-2(j), i.e. ‘held by or under the control of any public authority’. Departmental procedure contained in other statutes for dissemination (inspection / copy ) of information as that of Sec-610 of Companies Act fall within the scope and ambit of Sec-4(xv). Right under the RTI Act can be exercised only in respect of information HELD BY or UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE PUBLIC AUTHORITY. Information disseminated to public, either free or on prescribed fee, are also not information accessible within the meaning of Section-2(j).
 Arun Verma Vs. Dept of Company Affairs dt 29-03-2006 – CIC
 K.LAL vs M.K. BAGRI, Asst RoC dt 12-04-2007 – CIC
 SHRIRAM TICHKULE vs.P.K.GAICHOR, ARoC dt 29-08-2007 – CIC
 SONAL AMIT SHAH vs. RoC dt 31-03-2008 – CIC
 DHARMENDRA KUMAR GARG vs. REGISTRAR OF COMPANIES dt 10-09-2009 – CIC
 DAYAWATI SHARMA vs. RoC dt 23-03-2012 – CIC
 S.K. SHARMA vs. CBSE dt 07-08-2013 – CIC
 DELHI HC - ROC vs. DHARMENDRA KUMAR GARG dt 01-06-2012
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