CIC: The ‘Balotra Water Pollution Control & Research Foundation Trust’ received a grant of Rs. 15.5 Cr from GoI; it was formed vide Rajasthan State Govt. notification - CIC: Rajasthan SIC has jurisdiction to decide whether the trust is a public authority
CIC: the ‘Balotra Water Pollution Control & Research Foundation Trust’ received a grant of Rs. 15.5 crores from the GoI; it was formed in terms of a notification of the Rajasthan State Government; as a result of notifications of the Rajasthan State Government, the District Collector and other state officials handed over the charge to another trust founded by the local industrialists for running the CETP, the trust has also received land at economic rent from the Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation Limited - CIC: the State Information Commission of Rajasthan has jurisdiction to decide on the issue of this trust being a public authority u/s 2 (h) of the RTI Act; the Registry directed to remit the matter to the SIC
Attendance during the hearing on 28.3.2014.
The Complainant was not present. On behalf of the Respondents, the following were present at the NIC Studio, Barmer. 1. Shri Jugal Kishore Singh, Secretary. 2. Shri Sudhir Mathur.
Attendance during the hearing on 21.5.2014.
The Complainant was not present. On behalf of the Respondents, Shri Rajesh Vyas, Plant Engineer was present at the NIC Studio, Barmer.
Attendance during the hearing on 1.8.2014
The Complainant was not present. On behalf of the Respondents, Shri Sudhir Mathur, Plant Manager was present at the NIC Studio, Barmer.
Attendance during the hearing on 8.9.2014.
The Complainant was not present. No one was present on behalf of the Respondents.
Information Commissioner : Shri Sharat Sabharwal
This case pertains to an RTI application dated 1.3.2012 filed by the Complainant, seeking information on eight points. Not having received a reply, he filed an appeal to the First Appellate Authority on 5.4.2012. Not having heard from the Respondents, in response to his RTI application as well as first appeal, the Complainant filed a complaint to the Commission on 8.8.2012.
2. The above complaint was examined by the Commission in October, 2012 and order No. CIC/SM/C/2012/900877 dated 23.10.2012 was passed. In this order, the FAA was directed to enquire into the allegations made by the Complainant and after giving him an opportunity of hearing, to pass an appropriate order with a view to ensuring that the desired information was provided to the Complainant without any further loss of time. The Commission further directed the FAA to obtain the explanation of the CPIO for not providing the information in time and to forward the same to the Commission to take a decision on imposition of penalty on the CPIO in terms of Section 20 (1) of the RTI Act.
3. After issuance of the above order of the Commission, the Respondents sent a letter to the Complainant on 21.11.2012, with a copy to the Commission, in which they made the following salient points:
(i) The structuring of Balotra Water Pollution Control and Research Foundation Trust had undergone a complete change w.e.f. 30.8.2010, in that this Trust is completely owned and managed by private hands, who are the industrialists themselves and the State ownership or control is completely gone.
(ii) The above Trust came into existence on 28.9.1995, wherein the Collector of Barmer District, SDM, Balotra, Chairman, Municipal Board, Balotra, President, Laghu Udyog Mandal, Balotra and the Executive Officer, Municipal Board, Balotra were the trustees.
(iii) On 30.8.2010, the above trustees, i.e. the officials of the Government who were the exofficio trustees, retired from the Trust. Thereafter, the ownership, control and management of the Trust went entirely into private hands. The above change was brought about as a result of the Government Notification No. 6(39),3/2009 dated 27.8.2009, by which the Government functionaries on the Trust were directed to retire and vacate their posts on the Trust.
(iv)The Trust is not a body owned, controlled or ‘substantially financed’ by the Government. The Trust is also not a nongovernmental organisation, substantially financed by the Government.
(v) In the past, before 30.8.2010, the above Trust had received grantinaid, subsidy from the Government for establishing Common Effluent Treatment Plants, but now no such subsidy etc. is being received.
(vi)The mere fact that the Trust was in receipt of subsidy / grant in aid prior to 30.8.2010 from the Government, does not bring this Trust within the definition and purview of ‘public authority’ in Section 2 of the RTI Act.
(vii) The entire source of financing of the Trust at present is by way of a cess, collected by a contractor appointed by the Trust, on raw material i.e. Cotton Bales, which come within the territory of Balotra, to be processed by the Textile Industries established there. If it is to be presumed that grants in aid, received in the past, make this Trust a ‘public authority’, it would mean that all individual industrial units, which are setting up Effluent Treatment Plants, and are receiving grant in aid or subsidy from the Government for the same, would also come within the definition of ‘public authority’.
(viii) In view of the foregoing, the Trust is not a ‘public authority’ and is not liable
to provide any information in response to applications filed under the RTI Act.
4. Upon receipt of the above letter dated 21.11.2012 from the Respondents, the Complainant wrote to the Commission on 26.11.2012, stating, inter alia, the following:(i) The Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation Limited, Jaipur had vide an order dated 25.5.2012, allotted approximately 15,000 sqr. mtr. Of land at the industrial area, Balotra PhaseIII, at a token price of Re. 1/to the Respondents. The Complainant added that the normal rate charged by the above Corporation was Rs. 800/per sqr. mtr. and the total cost of the above land at this rate would come to Rs. 1.20 cores.
(ii) At the time of the establishment of the Balotra Water Pollution and Research Foundation Trust on 28.9.1995, the Textiles Ministry of Govt. Of India had also given subsidy of crores of rupees to the Respondents.
Hearing on 28.3.2014
5. The matter came before us on 28.3.2014. The Complainant was not present. However, in response to our written notice for the hearing, he had informed us vide his email dated 20.3.2014 that he had no new arguments from his side and that the Commission may decide the case on merit based on his earlier written submissions.
6. The Respondents reiterated the points made in their letter dated 21.11.2012, mentioned above. In response to our queries, they stated that they had received a subsidy of approximately Rs. 15 crores from the Ministry of Textiles, Govt. Of India, that they were yet to take possession of the land given by the Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation Limited and that at this point, they are receiving no funds from the Government.
7. Having carefully considered the records and submissions before us, we direct the Respondents to send us the following information:
(a) The Government Notification, vide which the Trust was set up in August, 1995.
(b) The Government Notification dated 27.8.2009, vide which the Government Trustees were directed to retire and the control of the Trust passed into private hands w.e.f. 30.8.2010.
(c) The Rules and Regulations governing the functioning of the Trust and the nature of its interface with the Government.
(d) Details of all direct or indirect grants, subsidies and land (with details of the area, terms on which allotted and date of allotment etc.) or tax concessions, received by the Trust, since its inception, from the Government (Central or Rajasthan).
(e) Balance sheet / audited accounts of the Trust for the last two years, showing details of revenue and its sources; as well as expenditure.
8. We will hear this matter again on 13 th May, 2014 at 10.00 a.m .
9. The information, as mentioned in paragraph 7 above, should reach the Commission’s office by 5th May, 2014.
Hearing on 21.5.2014
10. The matter came up again today. The Complainant was not present. Shri Rajesh Vyas, who appeared on behalf of the Respondents, stated that Shri Jugal Kishore Singh, Secretary of the Balotra Water Pollution Control & Research Foundation Trust was unable to attend the hearing as he had to go out for some urgent personal work. Shri Rajesh Vyas further submitted that the information sought vide our order dated 2.4.2014 had been faxed to the Commission on 7.4.2014. However, we note that it is not available on our records. In view of the foregoing, the Registry is directed to reschedule this matter and get in touch with the Respondents to ensure that information, sought as per our order dated 2.4.2014, is available on our records during the next hearing.
Hearing on 1.8.2014
11. The matter came up before us again today. The Respondents have sent their written submissions dated 5.4.2014. However, we note that they have not provided most of the information sought as per paragraph 7 of our order No. CIC/SM/C/2012/900877/SH dated 2.4.2014. Shri Sudhir Mathur, Plant Manager, who represented the Respondents, assured us that complete information, as sought in paragraph 7 of our order dated 2.4.2014, will be sent to us at the earliest. Accordingly, the Registry is directed to reschedule this matter in the second week of September, 2014. The Respondents are directed to ensure that all the information sought as per our order dated 2.4.2014, reaches the Commission by 31.8.2014.
Hearing on 8.9.2014
12. The matter came up again on 8.9.2014. The Complainant was not present. No one was present on behalf of the Respondents. However, vide their letter dated 18.8.2014, the Respondents had forwarded to us the documents sought in our order dated 2.4.2014. It is seen from these documents that in terms of the Rajasthan State Government notification No. 80, the members of the Jal Pradushan Nivaran Samiti passed a resolution dated 2.5.1995 and a trust named as ‘Balotra Water Pollution Control & Research Foundation’ was formed and the trust deed was executed on 28.9.1995. The main objective of the trust, specified in this deed, was to maintain Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP). As per the trust deed, the Chairman of the Board of trustees was to be the Collector of Barmer District. Subsequently, vide notifications dated 27.8.2009 and 28.8.2009, the Rajasthan State Government ordered that the District Collector and other State officials should hand over the charge to another trust to be founded by the local industrialists for running the CETP. Accordingly, a supplementary trust deed dated 30.8.2010 was executed and the Collector relinquished his position and handed over the charge to a newly elected President.
13. We further note that the Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation Ltd. allotted the following pieces of land as per lease deeds executed by them for ninety nine years at economic rent to the said trust:
(a) Lease deed dated 5.10.2001 for 93,025 sq. mt. Land at Rs. 4560/per annum economic rent.
(b) Lease deed dated 9.10.2012 for 19,000 sq. mt. Land at Rs. 1425/per annum economic rent.
(c) Lease deed dated 25.8.2011 for 52,325 sq. mt. Land at Rs. 3100/per annum economic rent.
14. It has also been brought to our notice that the trust received Rs. 15.5 crores as grant from the Government of India to set up CETP.
15. From the above, it would be seen that even though the ‘Balotra Water Pollution Control & Research Foundation Trust’ received a grant of Rs. 15.5 crores from the Government of India to set up the CETP, it was formed in terms of a notification of the Rajasthan State Government. Further, it is as a result of subsequent notifications of the Rajasthan State Government that the District Collector and other state officials handed over the charge to another trust founded by the local industrialists for running the CETP. The trust has also received land at economic rent, in three lots, from the Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation Limited. In view of the foregoing, the State Information Commission of Rajasthan has jurisdiction to decide on the issue of this trust being a public authority under Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act. Therefore, the Registry is directed to remit this matter to the State Information Commission of Rajasthan for appropriate action by them.
16. With the above direction, the complaint is disposed of.
17. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Sh. Kishorilal Singhvi v. Balotra Water Pollution Control & Research Foundation Trust in File No. CIC/SM/C/2012/900877/SH