Five member bench of CIC hears appeal seeking minutes of meeting of BALCO
A Five Member Bench consisting of Shri Satyananda Mishra, CIC; Shri M.L. Sharma, IC; Smt. Deepak Sandhu, IC; Smt. Sushma Singh; IC and Shri Vijay Sharma heard an appeal wherein the appellant had sought Date and Minutes of the 233rd Meeting of the Board of Directors of Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd. (BALCO) from the Ministry of Mines (MoM). The Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Ministry had refused to disclose this information on the ground that the Meetings of the Board of Directors of BALCO could not be disclosed for reasons of confidentiality. It was informed that M/s Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd. have acquired management control of BALCO consequent upon it’s disinvestment on 2nd March, 2001. Further, the proceedings of the Meetings of the Board of Directors of the Company contain confidential matters and the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956, do not allow inspection or giving copies of the same to the general public. It was added that RTI Act is neither applicable to M/s Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd. nor to BALCO. The First Appellate Authority upheld the decision of the PIO observing that Government Nominee Directors on the Board of BALCO have a fiduciary relationship with the Company and they are bound to protect the commercial secrets of the Company. Board minutes may contain trade secrets of the Company and hence cannot be disseminated under Clause 11(1) Where a Central Public Information Officer or a State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, intends to disclose any information or record, or part thereof on a request made under this Act, which relates to or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall, within five days from the receipt of the request, give a written notice to such third party of the request and of the fact that the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, intends to disclose the information or record, or part thereof, and invite the third party to make a submission in writing or orally, regarding whether the information should be disclosed, and such submission of the third party shall be kept in view while taking a decision about disclosure of information: of the RTI Act, 2005.
During the hearing the before Central Information Commission (CIC), Advocate Sen submitted that this appeal is not maintainable in the light of the stay dated 16.8.2011 granted by the High Court of Chhattisgarh. He contended that the High Court has stayed the entire proceedings in this matter under the ordinary law of the land, though not under the RTI Act, but it would not be appropriate for this Commission to go into the merits of this matter and pronounce its verdict in the present appeal at this juncture.
View of CIC
The Commission held that in the light of the stay granted by the High Court, it would not be proper to pass an order in the present appeal. The matter was adjourned sine-die leaving it open to the appellant to agitate the matter before the CIC again after the final pronouncement by the High Court, if he was so inclined.
Citation: Mr. Vinod Kumar Sharma v. Ministry of Mines in File No. CIC/SS/A/2012/000068
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1449
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission