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As reported at by Rahul Gadpale at mumbaimirror.com on Rahul Gadpale CIC issues order labelling MIAL a public utility; State commission’s order on R-Infra due by the end of this month The Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), the company that developed and runs the Mumbai airport, has become the first private concern in the country to be brought under the ambit of the Right to Information Act (RTI). And soon, another Mumbai-based company, Reliance Infrastructure, could become accountable under the RTI. The Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission has written to the Chief Information Commissioner, Maharashtra, stating that since the company controls distribution of power in Mumbai's suburbs, it is a public utility and thus open to public scrutiny under RTI. While the Central Information Commissioner issued its order on MIAL on May 30, the order on Reliance Infrastructure is expected on June 24. Both Reliance Infrastructure and MIAL have been in news recently -- the former for its high domestic power rates and the latter for its use of airport land for non-aviation purposes. The CIC order on MIAL is a big boost for RTI as it paves the way for other private companies operating public services to be brought under its scope. In the order issued on May 30, CIC has said that MIAL will have to appoint a chief public relations officer within 30 days of receiving this order and also fulfil the “mandate of disclosure” under the RTI Act within two months of receiving the order. The CIC was hearing a case filed by Mumbai-based Sanjay Ramesh Shirodkar. MIAL is a joint venture between GVK Airport Holdings Private Limited, ACSA Global Limited, Bid Services Division (Mauritius) Limited, and Airport Authority of India (AAI), with AAI holding 26 per cent stake. The order also states that MIAL is funded by the government as it accrues huge benefits from the state of Maharashtra. “The state government has waived stamp duty worth Rs 200 to Rs 250 crore. MIAL is using 2000 acres of AAI leased land at concessional rates, the actual market value of which is otherwise close to Rs 50,000 crore,” the order said. The Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission’s advise to the State Information Commission on Reliance Infrastructure being a public utility was in connection with a case filed by RTI activist Anil Galgali. Galgali had in 2008 asked information under the RTI from Reliance Energy, a part of Reliance Infrastructure, on the company’s power supply operations in Mumbai’s suburbs. However, Reliance Energy refused to part with the information citing its status as a private company. Galgali filed a plea with the State Information Commission, which sought the advice of the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC). “The CIC has given a verbal order that Reliance Energy should be brought under the RTI. The written order is expected to be issued on June 24. Once passed, this order will help millions of people who have Reliance Energy connections and have several queries concerning their operations,” said Galgali. When Mumbai Mirror contacted Chief Information Commissioner Vilas Patil, Maharashtra, he confirmed that the final order would be given on June 24. Both Reliance Infastructure and MIAL refused to comment. How it all started Pune-based Sanjay Shirodkar had filed an RTI application seeking information about the cost of Bisleri bottles. He claimed that bottles were being sold at rates higher than the MRP at Mumbai International Airport. The MIAL authorities, however, refused to answer Shirodkar’s queries saying that MIAL was a private company and therefore did not fall under the purview of RTI Act. Speaking on CIC’s decision, Shirodkar said, “It is a landmark decision and now MIAL is bound to give information to the public. It might be privately run but it is also a public utlity.”