CIC Asks I-T Department To Provide Cambata Aviation’s Balance Sheet under RTI
In August 2016, Mumbai-based Cambata Aviation Pvt Ltd, one of the oldest ground services-provider at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, closed its operation without paying over 2,000 of its employees, their salaries and provident fund, which amounted to over Rs100 crore. This led to the state government filing a criminal complaint against the company.
 
Aggrieved by non-receipt of his salary, an employee, Subramanian Ansari sought information from the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) in the office of deputy commissioner of income-tax (I-T) for certified copy of Cambata Aviation’s balance sheet and profit and loss account for 10 years from 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2017. He also asked for copies of the I-T department’s correspondence regarding closure of the company.
 
The CPIO, however, denied disclosure of information under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act 2005. When Mr Ansari filed his first appeal, the first appellate authority (FAA) directed the CPIO to contact the third party, that is, Cambata Aviation and request it to make a submission in writing regarding whether the information sought should be disclosed. Predictably, the company objected to the disclosure of information.
 
Mr Ansari’s second appeal to the information commission came up for hearing, one and a half years later, on 18 April 2019. The CIC ordered the I-T office to promptly disclose all information to Mr Ansari, as it found the CPIO wrongfully taking shelter under Section 8 of the RTI Act. 
 
The order issued by CIC Bimal Jhulka says, “Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties, it is the considered view of the Commission that it cannot be a mute spectator to the pitiable conditions being faced by the employees of the aviation company, which is seeking shelter under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act. Therefore, considering the sensitivities of the matter as also in the light of the criticality of sustenance issues faced by its employees, the Commission instructs the respondent (the income tax department) to disclose point wise information as held and available with them to the appellant (Ansari)…in the larger public interest.’’
 
As per the argument put forth by RTI applicant Mr Ansari during the CIC hearing, “Cambata Aviation had deprived salary and wages to more than 2,100 employees since March 2016 on the pretext of bad condition of finance and loss in the business resulting in extreme financial hardships to him and hundreds of other employees.”
 
He further alleged that the company was also willfully defaulting in payment of statutory dues of provident fund (PF), sales tax (ST), insurance, employees state insurance corp (ESIC) and credit society.
 
Mr Ansari was employed with Cambata Aviation at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai since 1 March 1996 and had not received salary since March 2016. 
 
The CIC observed in his order that, “…the company had deprived salary since March 2016 to its more than 2,100 employees on the pretext of bad condition of finance and loss in the business. On the other hand the company had given increments in January 2014, and recruited more than 800 employees in the year 2014 and 2015, which was a contradictory activity of Cambata Aviation.
 
“Furthermore the company had not issued Form No. 16 for the period from 2014-15, to 2016-17 to its 2,100 employees, which aroused suspicion and compelled him (Mr Ansari) to file a RTI application for financial statements, which could unearth the scam of his company such as willfully defaulting statutory dues of PF, ST, insurance, ESIC and credit society.’’ 
 
Mr Ansari was denied personal hearing for his first appeal due to which CIC Jhulka felt this raised suspicion in Mr Ansari’s mind that the “CPIO and FAA were indirectly helping Cambata Aviation under the pretext of Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005.”
 
The CIC pointed out that information sought by Mr Ansari was clearly in the larger public interest and so cannot come under denial of information section. He cited the Supreme Court case of Girish Ramchandra Deshpande vs Central Information Commission &Ors.
 
SLP(C) No. 27734 of 2012 dated 03/10/2012, which stated: “the details disclosed by a person in his income tax returns are ‘personal information’, which stand exempted from disclosure under clause (j) of Section 8(1)of the RTI Act, unless it involves a larger public interest and the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.”
 
The CIC order will hopefully, be implemented by the I-T department and provide ground for employees like Mr Ansari to further their cause.
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
 
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    COMMENTS

    Ashley Christopher Pereira

    2 months ago

    Have always doubted these election results. Convinced now that they have been manipulated! More skeletons will tumble out in the coming days. THIS IS A MURDER OF DEMOCRACY!

    CBSE Students, Do Not Hesitate To Ask for Your Answer Sheets under RTI
    The Standard X and XII results for Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) are just out and, once again, there is heartburn even amongst the students who have scored over 90%. Some of them told me that they were sure of getting better marks in a particular subject and so were contemplating revaluation. When I suggested that they or their parents could put in a right to information (RTI) application to procure copies of their answer sheets, they found it useful but are hesitating to take the RTI route.
     
    For them and many more, who are wary of using RTI for reasons such as ‘the Principal may get offended’, ‘the school authorities may target them in their junior college years’ (some students have got admission in the same school’s junior college), it is time to understand that every student not only has the right to get his or her answer sheet from CBSE under RTI, but can also get the model answer sheet of the subject. 
     
    In 2018, the Supreme Court, had slammed CBSE for violating its 2015 order in which the Board was ordered to provide answer sheets as per RTI rules, that is, at Rs2 per answer sheet. CBSE finally has declared that it would supply answer sheets under the RTI Act. Therefore, every student who has any doubt about his or her marks must use RTI to know the truth. (Read: SC asks CBSE to provide answer sheets strictly under RTI Act without charging exorbitant fees)
     
    As noted RTI activist Vivek Velankar, who has relentlessly fought for students’ rights of procuring answer sheets in the University of Pune, states, “Most of the students go in for revaluation but it is of no use unless and until you get to see the copy of your answer sheet. Moreover, the student should also ask for the model answer sheet of that subject. Once he gets both the documents, he and his parents can assess whether they should go for revaluation or not. Opting for revaluation blindly is a useless exercise.’’ 
     
    He also adds that, “Sometimes the student is confident that he has given the right answers but often when the copy of the answer sheet and model answer sheet is seen, it might be a different story.”
     
    Mr Velankar also urges the CBSE Board “not to take 30 days for a student who is applying for his answer sheet under RTI as the information is readily available and it is a crucial period for both parents and students to know their marks as early as possible. Also, with the Supreme Court having ordered the CBSE to make answer sheets and model answer sheets, transparent, students and their parents need not fear the school authorities for, they know that they are bound by RTI.”
     
    In addition, parents and students should know that in a June 2018 order from the Central Information Commission (CIC), a student can also do inspection of files under Section 4 of the RTI Act, to procure his or her answer sheet and model answer sheet.
     
    RTI resource persons, Pradeep Bhatt and Vinot Ranganathan, who run a website www.onlinerti.com, state “There are no set of rules or standards that apply in examination evaluation by universities or education boards.
     
    There are no norms or any legal rights for the students over fraudulent practices or biased marking. This has created nightmares for millions of bright students and destroyed the future of promising students across India.
     
    Maintaining and giving answer copies may be extra workload for the educational institution, but it is not a reasonable excuse to deny this information under RTI.
     
    Evaluated answer copies have to be open to the public to ensure transparency in our education system. Any student who has got unexpectedly low marks or has failed is an aggrieved citizen. This student can demand to inspect his results so that the evaluators cannot use unjustified means to act against any student.”
     
    The student, in his or her RTI application, should ask for 1) the copy of his answer sheet of the relevant subject and 2) the model answer sheet of that subject.
     
    Just to recall the earlier events, the CBSE published a notification on 29 May 2018 on its website prescribing an exorbitant fee of Rs1,200 per subject for obtaining copies of the evaluated answer-sheets. 
     
    In response to this notification, a contempt petition was been filed against the CBSE chairman, in the Supreme Court appealing for initiating contempt proceedings against the CBSE chairman; setting aside the CBSE notice of 29th May prescribing the fees of Rs1,000 and Rs1,200 for obtaining copies of the evaluated answer sheets and directing the Board to provide copies of the evaluated  answer-sheets to examinees, only as per the provisions of the RTI Act and at the cost or fee prescribed under the Right to Information Rules, 2012. 
     
    The contempt petition was filed by Whistle of Public Interest (WHIP), for the willful and deliberate attempt of CBSE to surpass and overrule the authority of the apex court of the country. 
     
    Consequently, a division bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and PC Pant directed the chairman CBSE to scrupulously observe the directions of the Supreme Court issued in CBSE & Anr. Versus Aditya Bandhopadhyay & Ors., Civil Appeal No. 6454/2011 and provide copies of the evaluated answer-sheets as per the rules made under the RTI Act. 
     
    CBSE since then has been providing answer-sheets under RTI.
     
    You may also want to read…
     
     
     
    (Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
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    SC Gives ‘Last Opportunity’ to RBI for Rethinking Its Stance on Disclosures Under RTI
    While giving 'one last opportunity', the Supreme Court on Friday asked Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to reconsider its position on disclosure of annual inspection reports of banks, list of wilful defaulters and other details sought by activists under Right to Information (RTI) Act. The apex court just stopped short of issuing a contempt notice against RBI governor, Shaktikanta Das, in this matter.
     
    "Though we could have taken a serious view of RBI continuing to violate the directions issued by this Court, we give them a last opportunity to withdraw the disclosure policy insofar as it contains exemptions, which are contrary to the directions issued by this Court. The RBI are dutybound to furnish all information relating to inspection reports and other material apart from the material that was exempted in para 77 of the judgment. Any further violation shall be viewed seriously by this Court," the bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice MR Shah said in the order.
     
    The apex court also directed the central bank to withdraw its non-disclosure policy, which the Court concluded is in violation of the Supreme Court's judgement in 2015. The RBI, as per 2015 judgement, was supposed to disclose the annual audit report of the banks, status of NPAs (non-performing assets) and action taken thereon.

    Taking a serious view of the continued defiance by RBI, the court came down heavily asking the central bank to make full disclosure of its annual inspection reports on the financial health of banks including position of NPAs and also withdraw its disclosure norms as they came in the way of making information public on the state of banks under the RTI.

    A bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice MR Shah said: "Any further violation will be viewed seriously."
     
    Only last month, the Supreme Court has threatened RBI with contempt proceeding for not disclosing banks' annual inspection reports under the RTI. (Read: Supreme Court Warns RBI of Contempt Proceedings for Not Disclosing Banks' Annual Inspection Reports under RTI)
     
    Earlier, both, the apex court as well as central information commission (CIC), had held that RBI cannot refuse to put in the public domain the annual inspection reports of banks. However, RBI has refused to follow these orders saying that these reports contain 'fiduciary information' as defined under the RTI Act and, hence, cannot be placed in the public domain.
     
    RTI activists Subhash Chander Agrawal and Girish Mittal had moved the top court seeking contempt action against RBI governor for not complying with its 2015 judgement.
     
    The petitioners had claimed that RBI and its former governor Dr Urjit Patel had 'willfully and deliberately' disobeyed the apex court's judgement asking the central bank to disclose information under the RTI Act.

    The two petitioners sought initiation of contempt of court action against former Governor for not disclosing information as directed by the top court.

    One of the contempt petitions filed by Girish Mittal said that RBI refused to provide information sought about the inspection reports of some banks.
     
    In the petition, Mumbai-based Mr Mittal, represented by senior counsel Prashant Bhushan and Pranav Sachdeva, contended that he had sought information under the RTI Act in December 2015 like copies of inspection reports of ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and State Bank of India (SBI) from April 2011 and copies of case files, with file notings on various irregularities detected by RBI in the case of Sahara group of companies and erstwhile Bank of Rajasthan.
     
    However, RBI denied the information in January 2016 that such information is exempted under Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act and Section 45NB of the Reserve Bank of India Act.
     
    The petition recalled the Supreme Court ruling in a case that RBI is clearly not in any fiduciary relationship with any bank. RBI has no legal duty to maximise the benefit of any public sector or private sector bank and, thus, there is no relationship of 'trust' between them. (Read: SC issues contempt notice to RBI in RTI case)
     
    Last year in November, the CIC too had issued a show-cause notice to Dr Urjit Patel, the then governor of RBI, for not honouring a judgement of the Supreme Court on disclosure of wilful defaulters’ list who had not paid loans of Rs50 crore and more. (Read: RBI Governor Gets Show Cause Notice from CIC for Not Disclosing Defaulters’ List)
     
    In the notice, the then central information commissioner Prof Sridhar Acharyulu had also asked the prime minister’s office (PMO), finance ministry and RBI to make public the letter sent by previous governor Raghuram Rajan on bad loans.
     
    In the order, Prof Acharyulu had stated, "The Commission finds no merit in hiding the names of, details and action against wilful defaulters of big bad loans worth hundreds of crores of rupees. The RBI shall disclose the bad debt details of defaulters worth more than Rs1,000 crore at the beginning, of Rs500 crore or less at later stage within five days and collect such information from the banks in due course to update their voluntary disclosures from time to time as a practice under Section 4(1)(b) of RTI Act."
     
    Prof Acharyulu, irked over the denial of information on wilful defaulters who had unpaid loans of Rs50 crore and more, asked the RBI governor to explain why maximum penalty should not be imposed on him for ‘dishonouring’ a verdict from the apex court, which had upheld a decision taken by then information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, calling for disclosure of names of wilful defaulters.
     
    Earlier in February 2016, the Supreme Court had directed RBI to furnish a list of the companies which are in default of loans in excess of Rs500 crore or whose loans have been restructured under corporate debt restructuring (CDR) scheme by banks and financial institutions. (Read: Supreme Court asks RBI to submit list of big defaulters)
     
    Even in December 2015, the apex court, in a landmark judgement, had told RBI that the banking regulator cannot withhold information citing 'fiduciary relations' under the RTI Act. 
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    COMMENTS

    SuchindranathAiyerS

    4 months ago

    If the disclosure causes a run on some banks, will the RBI bail them out? Will the RBI have the resources to do after these have bee transferred to Government?

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