Information concerning the loan account of a company was sought claiming that the appellant was a co-owner of a property which was mortgaged to the bank - CIC: Bank holds the information concerning its borrowers in a fiduciary capacity; exempt u/s 8(1)(e)
Both these files contain appeals in respect of the RTI application dated 7.10.2013 filed by the Appellant, seeking information on fifteen points concerning the loan account of M/s G.K. Lumber Mills Pvt. Ltd. Not satisfied with the response of the Respondents, he has approached the CIC in second appeal, registered on the above mentioned files.
2. The Appellant submitted that he is the co-owner of a property situated at 6/1 Industrial Area, Kirtinagar, New Delhi, which was mortgaged to the bank by M/s G.K. Lumber Mills Pvt. Ltd., without his signatures and consent, to obtain a loan from them. He claimed that the bank was aware of the fact that he was a co-owner because it (bank) tried to implead itself in a suit of family partition concerning the property in the High Court of Delhi. The Appellant further submitted that the CPIO passed his order dated 25.10.2013 in a mechanical manner and denied the information under Section 8 (1) (d) and (j) of the RTI Act. He questioned the invocation of Section 8 (1) (d) and (j) by the CPIO. He stated that he had clearly indicated in his RTI application that he was a co-owner of the property in question. The Appellant also drew our attention to the FAA’s order dated 26.12.2013 which, he stated, was not passed after due application of mind and claimed exemption from disclosure in respect of the information sought by him (the Appellant) under clause (e) of sub section (1) of Section 8 of the RTI Act, in addition to clauses (d) and (j) of the same sub section invoked by the CPIO. He prayed for provision of the information sought by him.
3. The Respondents submitted that the total area of the property in question is 2800 sq. yards, out of which an area of only 700 sq. yards, belonging to the borrower, was mortgaged to them. The business of M/s Lumber Mills Pvt. Ltd. was being carried out from a part of the same property. The Respondents claimed that the bank has sufficient documents to support the mortgage. They further submitted that unknown to the bank, the High Court of Delhi, while considering a partition suit concerning the property, had passed a restraint order concerning the same on 5.5.1997. The loan was sanctioned to M/s G.K. Lumber Mills Pvt. Ltd. in 1998, but became NPA in 2008. In 2011, the bank started a recovery process under the SARFAESI Act. It was at this stage that the other co-owners of the property brought to their notice the above mentioned restraint order of the High Court of Delhi. This was the first time that anyone had objected to the grant of a loan to M/s G.K. Lumber Mills Pvt. Ltd. against the property in question. The bank tried to implead itself in the case before the High Court of Delhi. However, its plea in this regard was rejected by the High Court. Recovery proceedings are going on in DRT. The Respondents also stated that they have submitted all the relevant documents, both in DRT and in the High Court, and the Appellant can obtain the documents desired by him through the DRT or the High Court. The Appellant stated that he is not a party to the suit before the DRT and further submitted that to his knowledge, the documents sought by him have not been submitted to the High Court. In response to our query, the Respondents stated that no court or tribunal has expressly forbidden disclosure of the information sought by the Appellant in his RTI application.
4. We have considered the records and the submissions made by both the parties before us. It is noted that some of the queries of the RTI application seek information regarding the Directors of M/s G.K. Lumber Mills Pvt. Ltd., the address and identity proof submitted by the Directors, whether they already had accounts with the Respondent Bank and, if so, the details of the introducer, details of loan accounts in the bank wherein the said Directors stood guarantee, copy of the credit report drawn up by the bank on the Directors of M/s G.K. Lumber Mills Pvt. Ltd. and steps taken by the bank to recover the outstanding amount from M/s G. K. Lumber Mills Pvt. Ltd. In the above context, we note that the Appellant is not connected in any manner with the loan account in question, with the exception of his interest in a part of the mortgaged property. The bank holds the information concerning its borrowers in a fiduciary capacity and it is exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (e) of the RTI Act. Further, the Appellant has sought information regarding the legal opinion concerning the property in question, obtained by the bank at the time of sanction of the credit facility. In this context, we refer to the Commission’s decision No. CIC/SM/A/2009/001904AT dated 18.11.2010, in which the Commission had agreed with the argument that legal advice or opinion, received by a bank from its advocates and counsels, is exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (e). The appellant has also sought copies of the valuation report obtained by the bank from its valuer at the time of sanctioning of the credit facility. As per Commission’s decision No. CIC/SM/A/2009/002063AT dated 23.9.2010, such information is exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (d) of the RTI Act. The Appellant has sought information regarding the present places of posting of the officers of the bank, who sanctioned the credit facility and whether any of them were given honourable retirement or removed from service; as well as names of the bank officers against whom action was taken for their lapses “leading to a fraud” in the case of the loan given to M/s G.K. Lumber Mills Pvt. Ltd. In the above context, we note the following observations of the Supreme Court in its judgment dated 3.10.2012 in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande Vs. Central Information Commissioner & Ors.:
“ We are in agreement with the CIC and the courts below that the details called for by the petitioner i.e. copies of all memos issued to the third respondent, show cause notices and orders of censure/punishment etc. are qualified to be personal information as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. The performance of an employee/officer in an organization is primarily a matter between the employee and the employer and normally those aspects are governed by the service rules which fall under the expression "personal information", the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or public interest. On the other hand, the disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of that individual. Of course, in a given case, if the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information, appropriate orders could be passed but the petitioner cannot claim those details as a matter of right.”
The Appellant has not established any larger public interest, warranting disclosure to him of the information mentioned above, which is exempted from disclosure under various clauses of sub section (1) of Section 8 of the RTI Act. His personal interest in the mortgaged property cannot become the ground of larger public interest.
5. Besides the above exemptions, the Commission notes that in addition to a recovery suit in the DRT (to which the Appellant is not a party), the issue of ownership of the property in question is before the High Court of Delhi in a partition suit. The Commission would not like to interfere with the proceedings in the High Court by directing release of any information under the RTI Act. Accordingly, we would refrain from directing the Respondents to provide any information in response to the RTI application dated 7.10.2013 of the Appellant.
6. With the above observations, the two appeals are disposed of.
7. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Shri Suraj Prakash Kapoor v. Punjab & Sind Bank in File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/000812 & CIC/SH/A/2014/000984