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SEBI returns RTI application fees.




Dear RTI Gurus:

I filed an RTI query with SEBI, using an e-IPO to make payment of INR 11 towards application fees. Just noticed that I received text notification on my cell phone: "Dear Customer, your Account XXxxx has been credited with INR 11.00 on 22-Jan-20. Info: VPS REF www indiapost gov in." This has to be the RTI application fees I paid. In 15 years of making RTI applications, many to SEBI, I have never had this happen. And I don't know what to make of this.

I do realize that in Sept 2018 I made the exact same query to SEBI, and never received an answer. I don't know if now SEBI has suddenly discovered that old query and RTI application fees payment, and is therefore returning this INR 11. This would be a kind interpretation, but inconsistent with SEBI's usual attitude. On the other hand I wonder if this is a novel way of rejecting a query.

The query itself is very simple, asking SEBI to update the data it solemnly promised to provide in response to a Rajya Sabha question by Shyam Benegal, intended to provide stale historical-archival FII transaction data that is available from https://www.sebi.gov.in/statistics/fpi-investment/trade-wise-equity-data-of-fpi.html. This data is used by academics for research purposes. SEBI was supposed to allow a lag of no more than 3 months. That was never honoured but it did occasionally update allowing a lag of no more than a year. But since July 2017 there has been no update at all, So now the lag is more than 30 months.

FYI, over the past few years, depending strictly on the luck of the draw (I don't know of any systematic reason) sometimes SEBI has updated on its own. Sometimes it has updated upon receiving an RTI query. Sometimes it has just ignored the whole query, and the SEBI First Appeal has proved to be only an obscene joke. My second appeals are languishing for years at CIC.

Please help. What should I do? The 30-day period is not yet over (runs till 5th Feb 2020). Attaching a copy of my RTI query.


Murgie Krishnan

for_RTIInfdia.org to_SEBI_RTI_Query_re_FPI_data_6th_Jan_2020.pdf

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UPDATE: I haven't received a reply from SEBI yet, but it is still only 27 days since my RTI query. But I am happy to report that from the SEBI webpage https://www.sebi.gov.in/statistics/fpi-investment/trade-wise-equity-data-of-fpi.html it is now clear that two years' data has been uploaded. So the FII equity trade records now run till June 2019. The lag has been cut down from 30 months at the time of my query to 7 months now. 

It is heartening to know that SEBI may finally realize that stale, very stale, trade data, is completely innocuous, and has almost certainly no value for anything other than academic research. Of course, SEBI still does what it can to limit the utility of the data it does release. Not only does it mask the identity of the FIIs (which we also think is reasonable, to protect privacy) but it changes these masks each month. So across months there is no way to tell if it is the same or different FIIs trading, or how many FIIs have traded in all. SEBI is still some distance from recognizing that markets become efficient only when we learn more about how they work, that research using stale data has a role to play in that, and then enable everyone to learn that. That academic research can be part of a system of checks and balances is a plea that has always failed to impress SEBI.

And of course, SEBI did not even tell anyone or disclose anywhere that it is changing masks of FIIs each month, till an alert IIT-M undergrad asked a seemingly ordinary question, which led to a sequence of RTI queries, and in an RTI response some years ago it finally acknowledged that. Its official documentation still does not disclose that. While many regulators round the world display mixed tendencies, giving with one hand and taking away with another, SEBI has carried this to a different level.

Still, at least it updated partially the data it solemnly promised to do in its response to a parliamentary query. We must be grateful for small mercies. 

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I did receive a formal reply from SEBI today. So SEBI's returning my fee must be for the PREVIOUS RTI application (in Sept 2018, for the same data) for which I never heard back from SEBI. We must be grateful for small mercies. SEBI's reply is attached.


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