MUMBAI: When Mumbai-based lawyer VT Gokhale filed a request with the Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI) under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, a response wasn't forthcoming.
Industrial Finance Corporation of India produced a certificate from the government that said it wasn't a â€˜public body'. Therefore, the company argued, it was outside the purview of the RTI and did not have to respond to the request.
But Gokhale persisted and went to Sebi, the stock exchange regulator. Because Sebi is a public body that comes under the RTI's canvas, it could be approached for information on another company controlled by it.
Having done that, he also went to the Central Information Commission (CIC) challenging the validity of the certificate issued by the government. In a recent ruling, the CIC favoured Gokhale, pulled by IFCI, declared the certificate it held â€˜invalid' and urged government departments and ministries to refrain from issuing such certificates. "Whether an entity is a public authority or not is to be determined only under the RTI Act," it ruled.
In July 1996, IFCI had made a public issue of five types of bonds. It collected about Rs 1,237 crore, including a green-shoe option from the bond issue. In 2003, IFCI decided to exercise its call option and asked bond holders to submit the bonds by a specified date.
Gokhale's grievance was that IFCI did not pay the redemption money by the promised date and hence, it should pay interest on the delayed period.
In his case, Gokhale was paid Rs 99 by IFCI as the penalty, but the company did not divulge full details about similar payments made to others. With the CIC order, Gokhale now hopes to get his answers in a months time.
Says RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi, "Many companies try to dodge queries under the RTI by producing such certificates." This is because, the Act is applicable only to entities either run, controlled or substantially financed by the government. "They circumvent the Act claiming not to be substantially financed by the government."
Panel pulls up IFCI for dodging RTI Act-India Business-Business-The Times of India
It has generally been seen that the SICs ask the appellant to plead / present his case during the appeal proceedings in the cases, where appeals have been filed for the deemed refusal for providing information. Some appellants are not in a position to present their case properly and hence the purpose of the appeal is not achieved.
During the appeal proceedings, if the AA / IC ask the appellant to present his case, he should invite the attention of the AA / IC towards S.19(5), which provides that in appeal proceedings the onus to prove that a denial of a request was justified shall be on the PIO, who denied the request."
Thereafter, the appellant may enjoy the case and has only to find loopholes in the pleadings of the PIO, which is an easier task than to plead a case.