Information regarding disposal & beneficiary of certain cheques issued by the Organizing Committee, Commonwealth Games 2010 was denied claiming that a bank is in a fiduciary relationship with its customers - CIC: Denial u/s 8 (1) (e) of the RTI Act upheld
File No. 2139 contains an appeal in respect of an RTI application dated 9.4.2014, filed by the Appellant, seeking information on six points regarding disposal and beneficiary of a cheque dated 11.11.2011 for Rs. 1,50,000/ issued by the Organizing Committee, Commonwealth Games 2010 on their saving account with the Respondent Bank. File No. 2140 contains an appeal concerning yet another RTI application dated 9.4.2014, filed by the Appellant, seeking information under five points on disposal and beneficiary of three pay orders / demand drafts of the amount of Rs. 1,50,000/, Rs. 8,00,000/ and Rs. 7,00,000/, issued on 3.8.2011 by the Respondent Bank at the request of the Organizing Committee, Commonwealth Games 2010, from their saving bank account. The information was denied in both the cases by the CPIO under Section 8 (1) (e) and (j) of the RTI Act and his decision was upheld by the FAA. Aggrieved with the decision of the Respondents, the Appellant has approached the CIC in second appeal in both the cases.
Hearing on 10.11.2015
2. The Respondents reiterated their decision to deny the information. In response to our query, they stated that most of the information sought by the Appellant is available with them, but cannot be provided to him because of their fiduciary relationship with their customer. The Appellant stated that a Spanish company, M/s MSL Software SL, participated in a bidding process conducted by the Organizing Committee of Commonwealth Games 2010, but was disqualified. The above cheque / pay orders /demand drafts were issued by the Organizing Committee in refund of the earnest money deposited by M/s MSL Software SL. However, in the instruments, the payee was mentioned as ‘MSL’. The Appellant further submitted that even though M/s MSL Software SL is a Spanish company, the cheques were issued in Indian rupee and not in foreign currency. He stated that fiduciary relationship would not apply in this case because the information sought is not regarding the customer of the bank, but regarding disposal of certain instruments. He further submitted that the Organizing Committee, Commonwealth Games 2010 has provided him some information concerning the matter, such as copies of the relevant note sheets and statement of account, showing debiting of the cheque / pay orders etc. in question. The Appellant also stated that disclosure of the information sought by him is a matter of larger public interest.
3. In the above context, it was pointed out to the Appellant that it is a well established fact that a bank is in a fiduciary relationship with its customers and holds the information concerning transactions from their accounts in a fiduciary capacity. Therefore, in the absence of a finding of larger public interest, such information is exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (e) of the RTI Act. He was further informed that his allegation that the payments due to M/s MSL Software SL were made in the name of ‘MSL’ cannot become the ground of larger public interest. At this point, the Appellant prayed for some more time to enable him to prepare his submissions on the above aspect. He further submitted that the bank could have asked the holders of the account whether they had any objection to provision of the information sought by him, but did not do so.
4. In view of the prayer of the Appellant for some more time to make his submissions, this matter is adjourned to be heard again on 15 th January, 2016 at 10.00 a.m. at Room No. 305, 2nd Floor, August Kranti Bhawan, Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi – 110066. The CPIO is directed to forward immediately copies of the two RTI applications, both dated 9.4.2014, to the holders of the account from which the cheque / pay orders / demand drafts were issued, asking them to state whether they have any objection to disclosure of the information sought by the Appellant. The CPIO should forward a copy of the reply, if any, received from the account holders to the Commission before the next hearing. The CPIO should also forward immediately a copy of this interim order to the holders of the account and ask them to be represented at the next hearing on 15.1.2016, in case they wish to make any submissions in the matter.
Hearing on 15.1.2016
5. The matter came up again today. The Respondents stated that as directed in our interim our dated 10.11.2015, they wrote a letter to the holders of the account, ‘Organising Committee Commonwealth Games 2010’, on 1.12.2015, forwarding to them the copies of the two RTI applications, the reply of the CPIO, the subsequent appeals and the interim order dated 10.11.2015. In response, the account holders wrote to the Respondents on 23.12.2015 and objected to disclosure of the information sought by the Appellant. They stated that this information pertains to the case filed by CBI in a Special Court, in which Shri A. K. Madan is one of the accused. According to them, the Appellant is the Counsel of Shri A. K. Madan. In this regard, they have also enclosed a copy of a court order dated 24.4.2014 that shows the Appellant to be the Counsel of Shri A. K. Madan. They have further stated that the case is pending in the court of Special Judge (PC Act) (CBI01), Patiala House Courts, New Delhi. They have argued that the disclosure of the information sought by the Appellant may have a bearing on the trial in the said matter and that it is, therefore, exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (h).
6. We have considered the totality of the facts placed before us. As stated in paragraph 3, the information sought by the Appellant is exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (e) of the RTI Act in the absence of a finding of larger public interest. No larger public interest has been established by the Appellant. The matter was adjourned to be heard again today only because the Appellant had prayed for some more time to enable him to prepare his submissions on the above aspect. However, he was not present during the hearing today. He has also not filed any written submissions.
7. In view of the foregoing, we uphold the decision of the Respondents to deny the information in response to both the RTI applications under Section 8 (1) (e) of the RTI Act.
8. With the above observations, the two appeals are disposed of.
9. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Shri Nitin Soni v. Central Bank of India in File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/002139 File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/002140