A citizen has a right to know under RTI as to who is the receiver of a subsidy
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Limited (NEDFCL) seeking information about the projects assisted by NEDFCL since 1996 to 1997 in general and about the products manufactured by some 12 companies in particular. He also wanted to know the names of all the industrial units which had been provided transport subsidy for transporting Calcined Petroleum Coke (CPC) between 2001- 2010 and particularly about the transport subsidy claimed by two particular companies between 2002 to 2008. The Public Information Officer (PIO) provided some information but refused the details under section 8(1)(d) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; of the RTI Act holding that they were obliged to maintain the secrecy of the account of their constituents.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant emphasised for obtaining the details of the promoters along with their contact address and about the products manufactured by these units. The respondent submitted that the details such as the names and contact addresses of the promoters was in the nature of personal information and could not be disclosed as it would lead to unwarranted invasion of their privacy. The appellant pointed out that these units were assisted by the Corporation with loans and that they also received various forms of subsidy from both the Central and State Governments thus they could not be treated at the same level as any other borrower from any financial institution. He referred to many CIC decisions of the past to argue that some minimum details about the recipients of the state subsidy must be placed in the public domain.
View of CIC
The Central Information Commission (CIC) held that the public has a right to know as to who is the receiver of any form of subsidy. The Commission observed that if all or some of these units have received any type of subsidy in cash or in kind including concessional loan, the details about the promoters such as their names and contact addresses and the name of the product being manufactured by them cannot be treated as personal information or commercial confidence. The Commission directed the PIO to provide the entire list of promoters for each of the units assisted by the Corporation and who are in receipt of any form of subsidy from any government agency. The commission also directed the PIO to communicate the names of the product or products manufactured by each such unit to the appellant.
Citation: Mr. Bhasco De Saikia v. North Eastern Development in File No.CIC/SM/A/2011/002052
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/689
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