RTI Judgement Series
RTI Judgement Series: You can get information on sub-judice matters under RTI

Under the RTI Act, disclosing information on matters which are sub-judice does not constitute contempt of court, unless there is a specific order forbidding its disclosure. This is the fourth in a series of important judgements given by Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC, that can be used or quoted in an RTI application 

 
The public information officer (PIO) cannot deny information on matters which are sub-judice by citing Section 8(1)(e) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, unless there is a specific order forbidding the disclosure, ruled the Central Information Commission. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner, also disagreed with a previous decision of the Commission.
 
“The appellate authority had claimed exemption under Section 8 (1)(e), but the PIO has given no reason to justify how this can apply. The only exemption of Section 8 (1) which might remotely apply is Section 8 (1)(b) which states, ‘information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court;’ can be denied. This clause does not cover sub-judice matters, and unless an exemption is specifically mentioned, information cannot be denied,” the Commission said in its order issued on 18 February 2009.
 
Delhi resident Ashwani Kumar Goel sought information regarding the creation of the posts of additional senior public prosecutors, vacancies and their ad-hoc promotions and subsequent regularizations during the period 1994 to 2005, from the government of NCT of Delhi. The PIO denied the information saying that the matter is sub-judice in the Delhi High Court.
 
The First Appellate Authority (FAA), while noting that the applicant (Mr Goel) is seeking information for use in the court case to promote his professional and private interests, asked him to obtain the information from Delhi High Court, since the matter was sub-judice. “Further, it was also informed that no large public interest is served from the information as asked by the appellant and can be denied under section 8(1) (e) of RTI Act,” the FAA said in its order.
 
Dissatisfied with the answers from both the PIO and the FAA, Mr Goel then approached the CIC. During the hearing on 18 February 2009, representative of the PIO cited an earlier decision (No. CIC/MA/A/2005/00001) given by the CIC on 14 March 2006. The CIC decision states that “The matter is sub-judice. The appellate authority has correctly advised that information in question could be obtained through the court, which is examining the matter.”
 
After hearing both the sides, Mr Gandhi, in an order said, “I respectfully have to disagree with the earlier decision cited by the appellant since it is per incuriam. This Commission rules that a matter being subjudice cannot be used as a reason for denying information under the Right to Information Act.” 
 
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
 
Decision No. CIC /WB/A/2008/00838/1777
 
Appeal No. CIC/WB/A/2008/00838/
 
Appellant                                :         Ashwani Kumar Goel,
                                                                  G-6, Model Town-III,
                                                                  Delhi-110009.
         
Respondent 1                           :      RN Sharma,
                                                                  Joint Secretary (Home) & PIO,
                                                                  Govt. of NCT of Delhi.
                                                                  Office of the Registrar Coop. Societies,
                                                                  Parliament Street, New Delhi.
 

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COMMENTS

praveen sakhuja

4 years ago

What Ghandi says is correct BUT who will correct the other IC's. Those support blindly the respondents indirectly Public Authorities. CAN ANY ONE PROVIDE SOLUTION TO IT kindly inform [email protected]

REPLY

Ashok Das

In Reply to praveen sakhuja 4 years ago

I respectfully disagree to your generalized view. Opinion on who is correct may vary. Declaring that all other CICs are biased compared to Gandhi is not a good idea. It shows bias. Shri Shailesh Gandhi is known to have a particular bias too. Balance is very very important in delivering justice. Like you have rightly said, a quick and good solution is still pending for ordinary citizens. At least we have RTI now, thanks to several people including Shailesh Gandhi. Lets hope we are able to make it better and better with time. Thanks.

praveen sakhuja

4 years ago

2nd - My experience says it is IC who do not take care of the decision/order of the colleague in a right spirit. those try to shield the respondents of their choice with giving a twist to the past decision/order with new mythology. IC-SS is glaring example to it.

praveen sakhuja

4 years ago

It is the fate of the applicant as to which IC's is dealing with the appeal. Ic's has full discretion to decide fate of the applicant. he/she may even reverse his observations while dictating the decision/order delivered during hearing proceedings,

Ashok Das

4 years ago

Respected Sir, This is quite confusing. Can someone help understand this? One CIC order says that “The matter is sub-judice. The appellate authority has correctly advised that information in question could be obtained through the court, which is examining the matter.” and another CIC order states that "This Commission rules that a matter being subjudice cannot be used as a reason for denying information under the Right to Information Act.” How is the confusion to be cleared as to what is correct? Who decides? Thank you.

BSE Sensex, Nifty in a strong uptrend: Thursday Closing Report

But buying only on declines would be the right strategy 

 
Resuming after a day’s break, the Indian market was in the positive for the entire session and closed in the green for the third day in a row. The end of the stalemate in Parliament and Goldman Sachs’ upgrade of India to ‘overweight’ from ‘market-weight’ also supported the gains. In our previous closing report, we had mentioned that the Nifty should continue to register a higher high and a higher low to maintain the upmove. For the third trading day today the Nifty managed to make a higher high and a higher low and closed at it highest points since 27 April 2011. At present the index is in a strong uptrend and a close below any previous day’s low may be a sign of reversal. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) saw a high volume of 111.71 crore shares on account of the November F&O contract expiry and an advance decline ratio of 1018:709.
 
The Indian market, which opened after a day’s holiday, started in the green tracking firm global cues and hopes that the logjam in Parliament will end with the Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar allowing a discussion that involves voting on the issue of allowing FDI in multi-brand retail. 
 
The Nifty opened 10 points higher at 5,737 and the Sensex resumed trade at 18,874, up 32 points over its previous close. The opening figure on the Sensex was its intraday low while the Nifty’s low was at 5,736. 
 
An upgrade of India to ‘overweight’ from ‘market-weight’ by global investment bank Goldman Sachs boosted sentiment in the domestic market today. The benchmarks gained strength as trade progressed on buying interest in consumer durables, fast moving consumer goods, realty and auto sectors.
 
A positive opening of the European markets boosted domestic investor sentiment in the second half of the trading session. The market continued to trade firm in the late session with the benchmarks hitting their highs in the last hour. At this point, the Nifty rose to 5,834 and the Sensex jumped to 19,205.
 
A minor bout of profit towards the end of the session resulted in the market closing off the highs. The Nifty gained 98 points to 5,825 and the Sensex jumped 329 points to settle above the 19,100 mark at 19,171.
 
Although the broader indices settled higher, they lagged the Sensex. The BSE Mid-cap index surged 1.26% and the BSE Small-cap index rose 0.45%.
 
 
With the exception of the BSE IT (down 0.36%) and BSE TECk (down 0.05%), all other sectoral gauges closed up. The top gainers were BSE Realty (up 3.38%); BSE Bankex (up 2.76%; BSE Auto (up 2.08%); BSE Capital Goods (up 1.55%) and BSE Consumer Durables (up 1.45%).
 
Twenty six of the 30 stocks on the Sensex closed in the positive. The main gainers were Bajaj Auto (up 5.01%); ICICI Bank (up 4.59%); Tata Motors (up 4.45%); Cipla (up 3.59%) and Sterlite Industries (up 3.09%). The losers were Hero MotoCorp (down 1.035); Infosys (down 0.98%); BHEL (down 0.71%) and Maruti Suzuki (down 0.39%).
 
The top two A Group gainers on the BSE were—Indiabulls Financial Services (up 10.61%) and Suzlon Energy (up 8.80%).
The top two A Group losers on the BSE were—Apollo Hospitals Enterprise (down 7.95%) and NHPC (down 3.64%).
 
The top two B Group gainers on the BSE were—ABG Infralogics (up 20%) and De Nora India (up 19.99%).
The top two B Group losers on the BSE were—Kiri Industries (down 19.75%) and Spectacle Infotek (down 11.56%).
 
Out of the 50 stocks listed on the Nifty, 43 stocks settled in the positive. The major gainers were ICICI Bank (up 4.92%); Asian Paints (up 4.51%); Tata Motors (up 4.46%); Bajaj Auto (up 4.11%) and Cipla (up 4.02%). The main losers were Infosys (down 1.40%); Maruti Suzuki (down 0.84%); Hero MotoCorp (down 0.83%); BHEL (down 0.76%) and HCL Technologies (down 0.45%).
 
Markets in Asia, with the exception of the Shanghai Composite, closed in the positive on hopes that US policymakers would reach a deal on avoiding higher taxes. Meanwhile, Japanese retail sales declined 1.2% in October on an annual basis, adding to the signs of a slowdown in the country.
 
The Hang Seng advanced 0.99%; the Jakarta Composite gained 0.33%; the KLSE Composite added 0.05%; the Nikkei 225 surged 0.99%; the Straits Times climbed 1.13%; the Seoul Composite jumped 1.15% and the Taiwan Weighted settled 0.92% higher. Bucking the trend, the Shanghai Composite declined 0.51% with brokerages leading the losers on speculations of a reduction in trading fees.
 
At the time of writing, key markets in Europe were trading 0.65% to 1.03% higher and the US stock futures were in the positive, indicating a green opening for US stocks.
 
Back home, foreign institutional investors were net buyers of shares totalling Rs1,082.74 crore on Tuesday while domestic institutional investors were net sellers of equities amounting Rs208.50 crore. 
 
Unichem Laboratories today said it has received the USFDA’s approval to market Tizanidine tablets, a drug used to relieve muscle pain, in the US market. The approval is for tablets in strengths of 2 mg and 4 mg. The stock surged 3.26% to close at Rs186 on the NSE.
 
Amid government directive to PSUs to invest their surplus funds, Coal India (CIL), which is sitting on huge cash-pile, has lined up Rs 50,000 crore investment plans for the next five years. “If they (PSUs) have not invested and they still have surplus cash, they have been told to invest... The principle is use it or lose it,” the finance minister had said. Coal India gained 1.32% to close at Rs368.10 on the NSE.
 
Agro-chemical firm Bayer CropScience today said that it has sold its property at Thane in Maharashtra for Rs1,250 crore to Agile Real Estate. The company said it has entered into two agreements and executed all other incidental documents with Agile and also undertaken all the requisite acts to close the transaction. The stock closed 2.22% higher at Rs1,225 on the NSE.
 

 

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Why do ministries interfere with the functioning of statutory bodies?

Statutory bodies like the Reserve Bank of India should not be made subservient to the whims and fancies of officials in ministries for exercising the powers they are expected to exercise as part of their mandated functions

 
Finance minister P Chidambaram has denied any rift with the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) and has concluded that the equation between the government and the central bank in India is the same as the equation between the government and central bank of any country. “It is always arguing for growth on the part of government and arguing for stability and taming inflation on the part of the central bank”, the FM is reported to have told media persons. 
 
This conforms to the RBI governor’s own observation earlier this month that he had checked with other central bank heads and found that relationship issues are the same in other countries too (I think, the occasion was a meeting attended by several central bank governors and treasury heads, which was attended by Mr Chidambaram also!). It has to be said to the credit of Dr Subbarao that he had understood this earlier and observed in an interview immediately after the “walk alone” threat from the finance minister thus: “I don’t feel very lonely. I think people are making too much of the finance minister’s response to our policy action. After all, we have shared goals. Both of us want high growth and low inflation. And there is a division of responsibilities. There is a point of view that we must walk together. But, you know, what is called walking together is understood differently. I think that will be resolved in the course of time.”
 
So far, so good. The confusion in the media about GOI-RBI friction evolved from the way in which the FM under pressure almost asked RBI to cut base interest rates in October, made a statement that RBI can go ahead with preliminary work for issue of new private sector bank licences without waiting for changes in Banking Regulation Act and gave freedom to his ministry officials to instruct banks on issues which the RBI thought were under the domain of the central bank as the banking regulator.
 
Finance Minister P Chidambaram, today, is a man in a hurry. Any FM of a country of India’s size and economic problems should be. But the speed should not blind vision or overtake priorities. The pressure being put on banks and the banking regulator makes one think on these lines.
 
Last week a letter said to have been written by the finance ministry to the RBI on new bank licences was quoted by a newspaper. The letter seems to assert that the powers RBI is seeking via an amendment to the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, are already available under various legislations and the amendments would be passed within six months during which period the RBI can go ahead with accepting applications for new banks and start processing them.
 
If the finance ministry is confident that an amendment is not necessary to ‘give’ the powers sought by the RBI (which include powers to supersede the board, to authorize the acquisition of shares beyond 5% as well as powers for consolidated supervision and dispensation necessary to deal with companies that entered the banking sector), for approving new banks, why not convince the RBI about the position? Why is the FM announcing to the media that the ministry has ‘written’ to the RBI to receive applications and start processing? How can any genuine promoter submit an application without knowing the regulatory environment in which the new bank will be functioning, in the first place?
 
During October, reports were there that the finance minister had asked RBI officials whether the banking regulator could be given these powers without an amendment to the Banking Regulation Act. The RBI governor said in an interview on 31st October that the central bank could not offer an informed response to this query from the FM, because the RBI believed that it needed those powers. North Block seems to have ignored the message in Dr Subbarao’s comment. The message was RBI would be happy if the powers come through a legislative amendment. The powers ‘given’ outside the provisions of the Act could be with stings and can also be taken back in a different situation through the same process (without a legislative process).
 
Statutory bodies like the RBI should not be made subservient to the whims and fancies of officials in ministries for exercising the powers they are expected to exercise as part of their mandated functions. The RBI has faced problems on such issues relating to banks earlier due to blurred clarity in powers and interpretation of law. Perhaps, the RBI has learnt from the recent experiences while handling new generation private sector banks which did not survive and the interests of the clientele had to be protected by the regulator with GOI support.
 
Last ten years or so, the RBI has been loitering around North Block for permission to continue a pension updation granted by RBI in exercise of powers available under the Reserve Bank of India Pension Regulations which is being questioned by the finance ministry that has interpreted the pension regulations differently. An amendment to RBI Pension
Regulations made to conform to the GOI interpretation of the regulations is pending with finance ministry for more than a year.
 
Such experiences too, can put the RBI on guard while acting on trust. The pressure on banks to open Aadhar-based accounts for transfer of ‘benefits’ under the pilot project in 51 districts even before the credibility of UID is established is another move from the FM flagging the lopsided priorities of UPA-II which is in a hurry to show results before approaching voters!
 
To read more articles by MG Warrier, click here
 
(MG Warrier is a former general manager of Reserve Bank of India.)
 

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COMMENTS

nagesh kini

4 years ago

From professional experience I vouch for the fact that the RBI is the best authority to deal with as it is relatively taint free.
We need more upright YV Reddys and D.Subbaraos to stand up to
"intellectually arrogant" - the term used by Congres'own Digvijay Singh to describe PC - FMs.
Thank God for RBI and CAG are constitutionally mandated who will brook no interference from North and South Blocks!

REPLY

M G WARRIER

In Reply to nagesh kini 4 years ago

I do appreciate your comments. But the efforts to weaken institutions are from several vested interests. All statutory bodies including judiciary and the entire public sector are victims. The haste with which Financial Sector Legislative Reforms, New Pension Scheme, UID etc are being pushed through, destabilising the top (see the experience of UTI, RBI etc) are all manifestations of the same thought process. There is a limit for individual resistance from people like T N Seshan, Kalam, Y V Reddy, Vinod Rai, Subbarao and even Dr Manmohan Singh or A K Antony, if you feel they are trying their bit.

Winmyid

4 years ago

Why do ministries interfere with the functioning of statutory bodies?

I will tell you why:
Because they are stupid (those who does interfere; Ex: when you don't understand the role of RBI and build a pressure on then, publicly, you are either stupid or working against constitutions' values and I am happy to give a benefit of doubt to our finance minister PC ). I think, PC (unfortunately my Sr at Harvard) belives that he is better (qualified) than RBI Gov.
He may also be extremely arrogant and may not like to take no for an answer.
Or, he doesn't understand finance the way he understand the politics or not being advised by wise people.
Many people from Harvard have ben like this when they become a leader (Bush was another one)
If any of you wants to get in touch with me, use my email and I will give you more detail reply about my opinion.

REPLY

M G WARRIER

In Reply to Winmyid 4 years ago

I appreciate your forthright views. Moneylife and I would look forward to any suggestions for bringing about a change in the attitude of individuals with the kind of character you have described so that millions of people who are affected by their approach to people, institutions and policies will get some relief. We may not be able to replace people in position. But some change in their attitude may make a big difference.

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