A case of misuse of the RTI Act
Background of the case
From the sales tax office, the Appellant sought information of various type of details of sale & purchase to match with gross sale & purchase of trading account; partywise and item wise sale & purchase to match with trading accounts; annual bank statement with party’s name, detail of opening and closing stocks, copy of DV AT 30& 31, Trading, Profit & Loss Account, balance sheets and such other queries for the financial year 1992-93 to 2010-11. The PIO denied the information under provision of Section 98 of DVAT Act, 2004 read with Section 8 (1)(d) of the Act. The order was upheld by the FAA who took the strong objections of the third party against disclosure on record.
View of the CIC
It became evident to the Commission that the appellant had personal grudge and bitter dispute with the third Party and hence had taken recourse to RTI Act. Therefore, the Commission granted additional time to the Third party to communicate their objections before the Commission. In their Submission, the third Party stressed that information as sought by the Complainant falls within the ambit of trade secrets, commercial confidence and would harm its commercial position. The case so unfolded that the Applicant and the Third party were real brothers who worked together till 1990-91. Subsequent disputes between the brothers led to various property disputes which are now pending before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi apart from over 100 RTI Applications being filed by the Appellant with various Government departments with the sole intention of seeking information about the Third Party and harassing him. It has submitted by the Third Party that even after obtaining all the documents from the various departments, the Applicant had failed to prove what public interest was being infringed by the Third Party. The Third Party also contended that the Applicant had even tried to blackmail the suppliers supplying goods to the Third Party thereby having dealt adverse blows to its business. According to the third party, since the Appellant and he are in the same business any disclosure of information as sought by him in the RTI application will harm his position in the market as the information deals with commercial confidence. During the course of arguments, the Third party submitted that he was willing to withstand any enquiry by any authority at any level in order to finally close this constant reproaches and vindictive and malicious acts of the Complainant, who is his own brother.
The Commission observed that the RTI application in this case is nothing but a vindictive tool being abused by one of the warring brothers in order to draw benefit out of putting his own brother to inconvenience. The Commission held that while no public interest has either been substantially been established in his written submissions nor in oral arguments, the applicability of the Section 8(1) (d) of the RTI Act 2005 is writ large in this case. The Commission was of the opinion that the Public Authority which is providing business to such warring siblings is also in its own way permeating creation of bad blood and recommended that a way be found to resolve and avoid such revengeful and negative atmosphere and unhealthy competition.
This case depicts how a weapon designed to ease the problems of the citizens is at times being misused. Such abuse in the hands of people like the Complainant in this case to settle personal scores brings a bad name to the RTI Act.
Citation: Mr. Ashok Kumar Goel v. Department Of Trade & Taxes, Govt. of NCT of Delhi in File No: CIC/AD/C/2011/001410