Copies of minutes of meetings of the Central Welfare Committee were sought - PIO denied it u/s 8(1)(d) - CIC directed the PIO to provide copies of the minutes in question by severing information in the nature of commercial confidence, if any, u/s 10
This matter pertains to an RTI application dated 4.4.2014 filed by the Appellant, seeking information on two points regarding meetings of Board of Directors in the financial year 2013-2014 and information concerning the Central Welfare Committee. Not satisfied with the response of the Respondents, he filed a complaint (File No. CIC/MP/C/2014/900191/SH) and an appeal (File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/001847) to the CIC. During the hearing of the matter, the Appellant submitted that he wants to obtain complete information in response to the queries of his RTI application and prayed that the matter be, therefore, disposed of in respect of the appeal filed by him (File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/001847).
2. The Appellant submitted that in response to point No. 1 (iii) of the RTI application, the CPIO stated that the expenditure on board meetings was Rs. 61.12 lakhs, while in the balance sheet of the bank, it has been shown as Rs. 1.05 crores. The Respondents submitted that the amount in the balance sheet contains expenditure on some allied items and details of the same will be provided to the Appellant. The CPIO is directed to do so.
3. The Appellant further submitted that the information sought at point No. 1 (iv) of the RTI application was denied under Section 8 (1) (d) of the RTI Act. He questioned this decision of the Respondents. We note that in point 1 (iv), the Appellant sought copies of minutes of the board meetings held during the period 1.4.2013 to 31.3.2014. He stated that eleven board meetings were held during this period. He also drew our attention to the Commission’s decision No. CIC/SG/A/2012/000113/18123 dated 28.3.2012, in which the Commission directed the CPIO of Bank of Maharashtra to provide information regarding decisions taken at the board meetings, during the financial years 20092010 and 20102011, after severing any information, which might be in the nature of commercial confidence, under Section 10 of the RTI Act. The Respondents submitted that minutes of board meetings contain information on issues of commercial confidence, such as policies of the bank, matters relating to its customers and credit matters etc. Therefore, the information was denied under Section 8 (1) (d). In the above context, we note that in a similar matter, seeking copies of minutes of board meetings of State Bank of India, the Commission had directed the Respondents in that case to provide the information after taking action as per Section 10 of the RTI Act to sever any information in the nature of commercial confidence. The decision of the Commission was challenged by the Respondents in the High Court of Delhi. On 18.7.2013, the High Court setaside the Commission’s decision and remitted the matter back to the Commission with the direction to pass fresh orders. Accordingly, the matter was examined again by the Commission and a fresh order No. CIC/AT/A/2010/000946/DS/VS/4270 dated 5.8.2013 was passed. In this order, the Commission upheld the decision of the Respondents to deny the information under Section 8 (1) (d) of the RTI Act and observed, inter alia, as follows:“ 19. SBI board minutes are connected with various work areas of banking policy, financial decision nmaking, commercial lending and other administrative aspects, where considerations of confidentiality and fiduciary relationships is part of the matrix. Whether the tightness of the board minutes and the large volumes makes severance inconvenient is a question, which will need to be looked into from case to case; though it is apparent that any situation with 90,000 pages (see para 18) would clearly trigger considerations of section 7 (9).” “20.My conclusion is that in case such as the present SBI matter, while the primary consideration is the nature and scope of the applicability of section 8 (1) (d), yet the practicality angle comes in from section 7 (9). The information provider weighs in the contexts of various RTI Act provisions, including the opportunity provided by section 10 for severing that part of the information which is exempt from disclosure. In the present instance, the normativeness implied in section 8 (1) (d) remains the dominant factor.” The above decision of the Commission is germane to the matter before us, in which information has been sought regarding board meetings during a full financial year. In the light of the foregoing, we uphold the decision of the Respondents in this case to deny the information under Section 8 (1) (d).
4. The Appellant submitted that a copy of the guidelines sought in point No. 2 (i) of the RTI application; as well as the information in response to points No. 2 (ii) and 2 (iii) have not been provided. We direct the CPIO to provide a copy of the guidelines sought by the Appellant in point No. 2 (i). We do not agree with the decision of the Respondents to deny copies of minutes of meetings of the Central Welfare Committee for the period 1.4.2013 to 31.3.2014 under Section 8 (1) (d). In response to our query, it was explained during the hearing that this committee deals with welfare issues concerning the employees of the bank. In view of the foregoing, we do not believe that the minutes in question would contain any information of commercial confidence. Accordingly, the CPIO is also directed to provide copies of the minutes in question by severing information in the nature of commercial confidence, if any, under Section 10 of the RTI Act. The CPIO is further directed to provide the correct information in response to point No. 2 (iii) of the RTI application.
5. The CPIO should comply with our directives, contained in the preceding paragraphs, within twenty days of the receipt of this order, under intimation to the Commission. The information should be provided free of cost.
6. With the above directions and observations, the complaint and the appeal are disposed of.
7. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Shri Suhas Vaidya v. Bank of Maharashtra in File No. CIC/MP/C/2014/900191/SH File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/001847