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By Shanaya Mehta
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New airport not open to public scrutiny: official
As Reported By : Swathi Shivanand in The Hindu
â€˜Provisions of RTI Act not applicableâ€™
State promoters have 26 per cent stake in BIAL
â€˜It does not amount to substantially financing BIALâ€™
BANGALORE: Soon thousands of people will start using the Bangalore International Airport at Devanahalli. Vast expanses of farmland have been acquired by the State Government to develop the greenfield airport. The State promoters have 26 per cent stake in Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), the company developing the airport.
Yet, the ordinary citizen cannot ask for information about the airport from its promoters apparently because the BIAL is â€œa company in the private sector,â€ is not a â€œpublic authorityâ€ and â€œprovisions of the Right to Information Act 2005 and Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurements 1999â€ are not applicable.
This is the reply that Benson Isaac, an individual who asked for information under the RTI was told by A.R. Rajaram, head, legal, and company secretary of the BIAL. Under the RTI Act, any public authority has to suo motu declare basic information about itself.
In a letter to the BIAL, Mr. Isaac argued that a public authority, as defined by the RTI Act, is any body or institution that is controlled or substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government. The 26 per cent stake by State promoters in the BIAL, Mr. Isaac contends, is enough to consider the BIAL a public authority and all rules and regulations of the RTI act are applicable to it.
â€œThe Karnataka State Industrial Investment and Development Corporation has provided the airport site to BIAL free from all encumbrances under the Land Lease Agreement. Also a State support agreement of Rs. 350 crore would be made available by the Government of Karnataka to BIAL for the purpose of this project,â€ Mr. Isaac said, quoting from the BIAL website.
Mr. Isaac also pointed out that in a similar case against the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), filed by Lt. Col (Retd) Anil Hebble, the Central Information Commission had ruled that the DIAL with 26 per cent stake of the State promoters, was a public authority. The same holds good for the BIAL too, he said.
Acknowledging his letter, the BIAL, in its reply on April 20, 2007, maintained that it was not a public authority and â€œthe question of furnishing any declaration/information suo motu or otherwise does not arise and we sincerely request you to treat the matter as closed.â€
Mr. Isaac has approached the State Information Commission. The BIAL, in its statement of objections before the commission, has disputed Mr. Isaacâ€™s claim. It said that the 26 per cent stake of State promoters does not amount to â€œsubstantially financing BIAL;â€ that the relationship between the parties is that of â€œa creditor and debtor;â€ the land has been leased out to BIAL and the company does not own these lands and that the BIAL is required to pay concession fee and is also liable to pay taxes.
On the question of similarities with the case against DIAL, the Bangalore airport promoters say that â€œthe facts to be looked into and appreciated, is totally different from the case of Lt. Col (Retd) Anil Hebble.â€
The Hindu : Karnataka / Bangalore News : New airport not open to public scrutiny: official