Copies of audit reports in respect to six overdraft accounts were denied u/s 8(1)(e) & (j) - Appellant: the audit reports needed to defend himself in the CBI Court - CIC: Trial Court to decide regarding information about an ongoing prosecution
This matter pertains to an RTI application dated 3.12.2013 filed by the Complainant, seeking copies of audit reports for the period 1.3.2002 to March 2004 in respect to six overdraft accounts. The CPIO responded on 13.12.2013 and denied the information under Section 8(1)(e) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; & (j) of the RTI Act. The Complainant filed complaint dated 28.2.2014 to the CIC, which was received by the Commission on 5.3.2014.
2. The Complainant submitted that he was Incharge of the retail trade cell of the Meerut Branch of the bank and sanctioned financing in around 150 cases. He alleged that in respect of six of these cases, the bank has filed a false complaint against him in a court. However, the audit officials had never pointed out any irregularity in respect of the six accounts in question. Therefore, he needs the audit reports mentioned above to defend himself in the CBI Court in Ghaziabad, where the matter has been pending since February 2008. In response to our query, he stated that a charge sheet has also been issued to him. The Complainant also stated that since he himself sanctioned the overdrafts in question, he should not be treated as a third party in the matter. According to him, the six overdraft accounts have already been closed. The Complainant further submitted that his first appeal to the FAA was not disposed of in the prescribed timeframe.
3. The Respondents reiterated the reply already given by them to the Complainant and stated that the information was denied as it related to the overdraft accounts of third parties.
4. We have considered the submissions made by both the parties before us. The Complainant faces a trial in a CBI Court, where the matter is pending and a charge sheet has been issued to him. In this context, we note the following observations made by the Commission in its decision dated 7.6.2010 on File No. CIC/AT/A/2008/01238:
“In our view, an information which is evidence or is related to evidence in an ongoing prosecution comes under the control of the Trial Court within the meaning of Section 2(j) “right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to- (i) inspection of work, documents, records; (ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; (iii) taking certified samples of material; (iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device; of the RTI Act, which states as follows:“ right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to.....” “The word “under the control of” implies that the information, regardless of which public authority holds it, is under the control of a specific public authority on whose orders alone it can be produced in a given proceeding. In the present case, the material sought by the appellant is undoubtedly related to an ongoing court proceeding and hence it can be rightly said to be under the control of the Trial Court, who alone can decide how the information is to be dispensed. Any action under the RTI Act or any other Act for disclosure of that information to the very party who is arraigned before the Trial Court or to anyone representing that party, would have the effect of interfering with the discretion of the Court, thereby impeding an extant prosecution proceeding.”
5. In the above context, the Commission also noted the following observation of the Delhi High Court in S. M. Lamba vs. S. C. Gupta & Anr.:“This court would like to observe that under the code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 once the stage of an order framing charges have been crossed, it would be open to the accused to make an appropriate application before the learned trial court to summon the above documents in accordance with the law.”
6. Taking the above into account, the Commission stated, “It is, therefore, important that all determinations about disclosure of any information relating to an ongoing prosecution should be through the agency of the Trial Court and not otherwise.”
7. The above observations of the Commission are germane to the case before us. In the light of the foregoing, we do not consider it necessary to interfere with the decision of the Respondents to deny the information in this case. However, we would recall to the First Appellate Authority his responsibility to dispose of the appeals filed to him on RTI matters strictly within the timeframe laid down in the RTI Act.
8. With the above observations, the complaint is disposed of.
9. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Shri Mukesh Arora v. Allahabad Bank in File No. CIC/SH/C/2014/000173