Information Commissioner lambasts SEBI for providing misleading information under RTI Act
Moneylife Digital Team 07 July 2010

The order was issued in connection with an appeal filed seeking information about all communication received by the market regulator from the capital markets division of the finance ministry

MS Sahoo, whole-time member of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has been issued a show-cause notice by the Central Information Commission asking him to show cause as to why an appellant should not be paid Rs25,000 as compensation for the detriment caused to her on account of the perfunctory manner in which her Right to Information (RTI) application and appeal was heard and disposed of.
 
Information Commissioner AN Tiwari issued the order in connection with an appeal filed by Seema Kashyap to SEBI seeking information about all communication received by the market regulator from the capital markets division of the finance ministry on norms for approval of new stock exchanges, currency derivatives, SME exchange, interest-rate derivatives, corporate bond markets and ownership guidelines for stock exchanges.
 
Ms Kashyap received a reply from the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO). However, not satisfied with the reply, she then moved the Appellate Authority. The Authority rejected her plea that the information disclosed had no relation to what had been requested. Ms Kashyap then approached the Central Information Commission claiming that what was supplied by SEBI by way of information was "nothing more than a bunch of irrelevant letters and news items having no relation to the information sought." During the hearing, Ms Kashyap pointed out that rather than provide her the particular information she sought, the CPIO went on a tangent giving out a plethora of entirely unrelated information and surprisingly, the Appellate Authority approved the CPIO's action.
 
In an order, the Information Commissioner said, "I find that the disclosed information was at variance with what the appellant had requested. The focus of the CPIO and the Appellate Authority ought to have been on the 'communications' of a certain variety as received by SEBI from the government of India and not material on the issues contained in the points which the appellant had listed. I wonder how such elementary aspects of the appellant's RTI query escaped the notice of both the CPIO and the Appellate Authority. Prima facie, there seems to be an attempt to somehow fob off the appellant with some vague information rather than give to her what she had really demanded. If SEBI had received no communication from the government of India of the type the appellant had mentioned in her RTI application, a proper response to that effect would have been entirely in order. Unfortunately, that was not to be."
 
The Information Commissioner directed the CPIO to provide precise information sought by Ms Kashyap pertaining to her RTI queries within two weeks. The Commission also issued notices to the CPIO as to why proceedings under Section 20 of the RTI Act should not be drawn up against him for providing false and misleading information to the appellant.
 
While the order was issued some time ago, it has been put in the public domain only recently. This is probably the first time that a regulator has been threatened with a fine for not providing proper information to a citizen under the RTI Act.

Interestingly, under the previous chairman, SEBI used to take pride in its claim that it answered all RTI queries. However, the regulator now seems to share the same attitude at the two leading bourses - the National Stock Exchange and the Bombay Stock Exchange - who have both gone to court claiming that they should not be subject to the RTI Act.

Meanwhile, SEBI had filed a writ petition against the CIC order in the Bombay High Court. The HC, while admitting the petition sent a notice to the CIC, returnable by 26th July and said, "...till then there will be ad interim order in terms of prayer clause".

Comments
Santhana
1 decade ago
If SEBI, NSE and BSE have nothing to hide, why they are claiming exemption from RTI? The more they shirk their responsibility to share the information in the public, more will be curious to know what they are trying to brush under the carpet.
jk
1 decade ago
The regulator has never tried to be transparent to public through-out tenure of Mr Bhave-though it is fully dependent on public participation-is SEBI a defence or army organisation whose revelations could threat country's defence-this is gross case of dictatorial attitude of this organisation-if this condition prevels for longer-people will soon loos faith in all such govermental bodies which are directly related to public participation-
god save this country-
Omprakash Jha
1 decade ago
Dear Sir,

We have gone through your article on SEBI not providing correct information to the RTI Applicant. However this representation is not true and you may like to clarify this in your journal.

The matter is sub judice under Writ Petition (L) No-1319 of 2010 before the Hon'ble Bombay High Court and the Hon'ble High Court has granted stay against CIC order by its order dated 14/06/2010.

Thanking you.
jagdish manghnani
1 decade ago
Dear Sir

This is a good issue to fight beacause if one instution gets away like this every one will take the same way

Awating an early reply from your end
Vijay Trimbak gokhale
1 decade ago
Notice regarding compensation is isuued to SEBI Chairman as Head of public authority to be repeated to AA of SEBI Mr. Sahoo. This is because the obligations of public authority are basically the obligations of the Head of the authority, who should ensure that these are met in right earnest. Refernce to public authority in guidelines issued by Ministry of Personnel is, in fcat, a reference to the head of te public authority.
Vijay Trimbak Gokhale
1 decade ago
The implementation of RTI Act by SEBI desrves this and many more such orders from SEBI. SEBI management must take steps to improve the quality of replies from CPIO and orders of AA.
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