The CIC while declaring the Bank of Maharashtra Employees Welfare Trust as a public authority asked it to appoint a PIO and FAA. This is the 194th in a series of important RTI judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi
The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed the chairman of Bank of Maharashtra Employees Welfare Trust to appoint a Public Information Officer (PIO) and a First Appellate Authority, as mandated under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Bench also dismissed the contention of the PIO of Bank of Maharashtra that the Trust is managed by an 'independent' board of trustees which has the entire custody, management and control of the Trust funds.
While giving the judgement on 12 March 2012, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, "The Executive Director of the Bank, who is a government appointee is the Chairman of the Trust. The Bench can only assume that such officials must necessarily be acting on behalf of the Bank-when they are required to take executive decisions as members of the board of the Trust for the welfare of the Bank's employees. It is also true that significant funding is provided to the Trust by the Respondent-public authority. If the argument of the PIO is accepted, it would necessarily imply a conflict of interest and be an improper slur on the integrity of the Bank officials."
Pune resident, Prakash Ranade, on 18 September 2011, sought from the PIO information regarding the Bank of Maharashtra Employees Welfare Trust. Here is the information he sought...
1. Copy of the constitution of the welfare trust;
2. List of the places where the Holiday Homes for staff members are provided as of April 2011;
3. The agreement copies of the Holiday home owners/hotels that have arrangement with bank for years April 2010-to March 2011 with full terms and conditions;
4. The procedure followed while selection of particular property for Holiday Homes and their renewals after expiry of agreed terms;
5. Inform Names of selection committee members. The details of expenses for their visits to renew/fresh lease etc during the years April 2010 to March 2011 paid by Bank through welfare fund;
6. Total payment made to each Holiday Homes for the financial year and 2010-2011.
Denying the information, the PIO stated, "Information sought is related to the Trust which is a separate legal entity. Hence, information cannot be provided."
Ranade, citing unsatisfactory information provided by PIO filed his first appeal. In his order, the First Appellate Authority (FAA) said, "I have gone through the contention of the appellant & reply by CPIO and I find that the said "Welfare Trust" is a registered Trust. It is managed by an independent Board of Trustees which has the entire custody, management and control of the Trust funds. I therefore agree with CPIO that the trust is a separate legal entity and uphold the decision of CPIO."
Dissatisfied with FAA's order, Ranade then approached the CIC with his second appeal.
During the hearing on 13 February 2012 before the Bench of Mr Gandhi, the appellant stated that the Trust receives a sum of about Rs8 to Rs10 crore from the public authority Bank. "Further, the Executive Director of the Bank is the ex-officio head of the Trust. Moreover, other members of the Trust are employees of the Bank," He said. The CPIO did not deny the said statements and was therefore asked to send his written submissions via email. The Bench then decided to reserve its order.
During the next hearing on 12 March 2012, Mr Gandhi said both the parties had sent their submissions. "At the outset, it is relevant to mention that the PIO has stated that the Trust is a separate legal entity, registered with the Charity Commissioner, Pune. Therefore, based on the submissions and arguments of the parties, the issue framed by this Bench is whether the Bank of Maharashtra Employees Welfare Trust is a 'public authority' under the RTI Act," he said.
Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, which defines a 'public authority' stipulates as follows:
"public authority" means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted,-
(a) by or under the Constitution;
(b) by any other law made by Parliament;
(c) by any other law made by State Legislature;
(d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any-
(i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed;
(ii) non-Government Organisation substantially financed,
directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government;" (emphasis added)
The Bench said, "From a plain reading of the above, it appears that the Trust is not covered under clauses (a), (b), (c), (d) and (ii) of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act. Therefore, the issue which is to be determined is whether the Trust is a body owned, controlled or substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government."
Ranade, the appellant has inter alia mentioned in his submissions that at the hearing held on 13 February 2012, the PIO have already submitted that the Bank had provided substantial funds to the tune of Rs90 to Rs100 crore to the Trust since 1999. In this regard, the PIO has submitted that the amount contributed by the Bank to the Trust since its inception in 1999 is Rs50.80 crore. "Though the term 'financed' is qualified by 'substantial', Section 2(h) of the RTI Act does not lay down what actually constitutes 'substantial financing'. It is akin to 'material' or 'important' or 'of considerable value' and would depend on the facts and circumstances of the case," the Bench noted.
"In the instant case," Mr Gandhi said, "a contribution or grant of Rs50.80 crore given by the Bank from its corpus of public funds cannot be considered as insignificant. This would render the Trust as being 'substantially financed' indirectly by Government funds. Citizens have a right to know about the manner, extent and purpose for which public funds are being deployed by the Government or its agencies. Having said so, not every financing of an entity in the form of a contribution or grant by the Government or its instrumentalities (such as the Bank) would qualify as 'substantial'-but certainly a grant of over Rs1 crore would constitute 'substantial financing' rendering such entity a public authority under the RTI Act."
Ranade, the Appellant had further submitted that the Trust was run by the executives of the Bank as ex-officio members and by staff members as representatives. The PIO stated that the Trust is a separate legal entity, registered with the Charity Commissioner, Pune under Registration NoE-2935-Pune. The location of the registered office of the Trust is-'Lokmangal, 1501, Shivajinagar, Pune-411005'. In addition, the PIO submitted that the Trust is managed by an independent board of trustees which has the entire custody, management and control of the Trust funds. The PIO also provided the details of the officials of the Bank who are the trustees of the said trust.
Mr Gandhi said, "…the Bench is of the view that mere registration with a Government/statutory authority does not in itself render an entity a 'public authority' under the RTI Act. Therefore, the Trust does not appear to be 'owned' by the appropriate Government. As regards being 'controlled' by the appropriate Government, the said term has not been defined under the RTI Act. There are various forms in which the Government exercises control over an entity, which is relevant in determining whether the latter is a public authority."
The PIO had stated that the Trust is managed by an 'independent' board of trustees which has the entire custody, management and control of the Trust funds. However, Mr Gandhi said, "The Bench is of the view that such a claim is untenable. It is difficult to assume that senior officials of the Bank can constitute the entire board of trustees in an independent capacity where the Trust itself has been set up for the welfare of the Bank employees."
Mr Gandhi said, "The RTI Act does not specify 'complete control' in Section 2(h). As per P Ramanatha Aiyar's The Law Lexicon (2nd Ed., Reprint 2007 at p. 410), the term 'control' means- 'power to check or restrain; superintendence; management…’. It appears that the presence of senior Bank officials especially the Executive Director who is a public servant on the board of trustees may check or ensure that decisions taken in the Trust are in consonance with its avowed objectives i.e. promoting the welfare of the Bank's employees. Therefore, it cannot be ruled out that the Bank officers exercise a significant degree of control on the decisions of the Trust."
Based on the reasons, the Bench ruled that the Bank of Maharashtra Employees Welfare Trust is a public authority under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.
While allowing the appeal, Mr Gandhi directed the Chairman of the Trust to appoint a PIO and FAA as mandated under the RTI Act before 15 April 2012. "The PIO so appointed shall provide the complete information as per records in relation to the RTI application dated 18 September 2011 to the appellant as per the provisions of the RTI Act," the Bench said.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2011/003688/17641
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2011/003688
Appellant : Prakash Ranade,
Respondent : Ajay Banerjee,
CPIO & CGM
Bank of Maharashtra,
H.O.: Lokmangal, 1501, Shivajinagar,
Bajaj Auto reported a healthy growth in its net profit due on healthy exports. However, its domestic sales declined for the first time in many years
Bajaj Auto Ltd, the world’s third largest motorcycle maker reported 11% higher net profit during the third quarter on increase in exports. In a statement, the company claimed that their operating EBIDTA margin which stood at 21%, even in slow economic and industrial growth, is the highest in the industry.
For the quarter to end-December, the Bajaj group company’s net profit rose 11% to Rs905 crore from Rs819 crore in the year ago period. The company’s exports, helped by a weaker rupee, increased 24% to Rs2,123 crore during the quarter.
The motorcycle maker said, during the quarter, its net sales decreased 5% to Rs5,025 crore from Rs5,307 crore a year ago. Bajaj Auto sold 12% fewer units at 9.93 lakh vehicles compared with 11.27 lakh vehicles same year a year ago. The company said, sales during festive period were not robust and in November and December industry sales remained sluggish.
According to Moneylife analysis, December 2013 has been a disappointing quarter for Bajaj Auto as far as net sales is concerned, as it dipped into negative territory for the first time in many years. Bajaj Auto operating profit growth of 12% is almost equal to its three-quarter year-on-year average growth rate of 13%. According to Moneylife database, the Bajaj Auto market capitalisation is valued at roughly 12 times its operating profit. It enjoys a relatively high return on net worth, at 41%.
Bajaj Auto closed Thursday marginally up at Rs1,908 on the BSE, while the 30-share Sensex closed marginally down at 21,265.
Last time, the controversy over Twitter cost Tharoor his job as minister of state for external affairs. Will he come out unscathed this time?
Shashi Tharoor, the minister of state for human resource development (HRD) is at the centre of a cross-border tweet war between his wife and a Pakistani woman journalist who have attacked each other. This is the third time the minister has been surrounded in controversy due to Twitter. Last time it cost him his job as minister of state for external affairs, though.
Sunanda Pushkar, the wife of Tharoor, has accused Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar of stalking her husband and trying to 'break' her marriage when she was away for treatment for three to four months. Lahore-based Tarar is a mother of a 13-year-old son and an Op-ed writer and a contributor to a Pakistani daily.
Suananda also reportedly alleged that Tharoor was having an 'extramarital affair' with the journalist and that she would 'seek divorce'.
Sunanda said Tharoor and she are a 'very happily married couple' and accused the journalist of trying to berate her for some strange reasons. She further alleged that Tarar wanted to have a 'relationship' with her husband and asked her to stay away.
As the indecorous controversy surrounding Tharoor escalated amid exchange of some intimate messages, Tarar dismissed the allegations as untrue and said she was totally amused. She said Sunanda has gone out of her mind.
Tarar said she will file a defamation suit against Sunanda for defaming her by alleging she was an agent of Pakistan’s spy agency ISI.
“I have nothing to say to a woman clearly out of her mind. To be called an ISI agent, a stalker…I have nothing to add. Just shows who she is,” she tweeted.
“So I ‘stalk’ on bbm and phone. The last I checked it was a two-way thing, or maybe technology changed while I ’stalked’?
For a woman to trash another woman linking her w/her husband is the lowest form of sickness ever. It’s nauseous. No respect for her marriage,” the journalist said in a series of tweets.
Tarar said she had great respect for Tharoor and that everything about him on her Twitter account was on her timeline. She said Tharoor’s view on politics had always fascinated her. How can somebody stalk on phone? she asked, and added Sunanda’s tweets are crazy.
Sunanda claimed on Twitter that she was posting from her husband’s account, intimate private messages sent to him by Tarar, to show the world “how she is stalking my h ..”
Sunanda later said her information from Pakistan was that the journalist was 'wired' to suggest she had links with an intelligence agency.
The Twitter handle of Tharoor, one of the most popular Indian politicians on the networking site, was hacked on Wednesday and some wacky tweets were sent from it to Tarar.
The tweets instantly created a buzz on social media websites.
“Sorry folks, my @Twitter account has been hacked & will be temporarily deactivated. Bear with me while we solve this,” he told his followers in his page.
Most of the tweets from his hacked account were addressed to Tarar, who was taken aback by the flurry of messages from the minister’s handle.
Earlier in 2010, Tharoor found himself in a controversy due to his tweets in reply to Lalit Modi, the then chairperson of Indian Premier League (IPL). This also revealed Tharoor's relation with Sunanda Pushkar, who at that time had shown substantial interest for her miniscule stake in the Kochi franchisee in the IPL. However, it ended with Tharoor losing his job as minister of external affairs and later getting married with Sunanda.
Before that, Tharoor was attacked by the Opposition when in 2009, he tweeted that he would travel 'in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows'.
Last year, comenting on the Delhi gang rape case, Tharoor had tweeted that the proposed anti-rape law should be named after the victim, 'Amanat'. However, this was immediately rejected by Congress saying the opinion of the minister as personal view.
As of today, Tharoor had over 20 lakh followers on Twitter.