Information regarding a particular Letter of Credit was denied by MMTC claiming it as commercial information of third party held by them in fiduciary capacity - CIC: the plea of public interest at the appeal stage was an unsubstantiated afterthought
1. The appellant, Shri R K Tanwar, submitted RTI application dated 1 July 2013 before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), State Bank of India, New Delhi; seeking information regarding LC No. 0999611IM0000961 opened by MMTC Limited in favour of M/s Transammonia A.G. (TAG), Foreign Supplier of UREA, to whom payment of USD 22.5 million released on 30.12.2011 etc., through a total of 8 points.
2. Vide reply dated 18 July 2013, CPIO denied information on point nos. 4 & 8 on the ground that requested information did not come under the definition of ‘information’ as defined u/s 2(f) “information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force; of the RTI Act, and also denied information on point nos.1, 2, 3, 5, 6 & 7 u/s 8(1)(d) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; & (j) of the RTI Act, 2005. Not satisfied by the CPIO’s reply, the appellant preferred an appeal dated 21 July 2013 to the first appellate authority (FAA) alleging that he had been wrongly denied the information sought by the CPIO concerned ignoring the public interest involved, since both MMCT and SBI were public sector units. Vide order dated 21 August 2013, FAA upheld the CPIO’s decision.
3. Dissatisfied with the response of the public authority, the appellant preferred second appeal before the Commission.
4. The matter was heard by the Commission. The respondents submitted that the appellant had sought information regarding MMTC, one of their customer’s letter of credit. The appellant had sought information regarding a particular LC transaction which they had denied as the said information was held with them in fiduciary capacity and involving commercial information of 3rd party, disclosure of which would have harmed the competitive position of the Bank. They also added that there were 5 third parties involved in this matter namely SBI, MMTC, M/s Transammonia A.G. (TAG), KBC Bank Switzerland and M V Kiran Europe (Shipping Vessel). They submitted that Bank was also under statutory obligation to maintain secrecy regarding the dealings of its customers with the Bank. On the point of larger public interest, the respondents submitted that firstly the appellant had not raised this issue in his RTI application and he only raised it in his appeal made before the FAA. They added that there was no public interest involved in this matter as it is a simple commercial transaction and if the appellant felt that some illegality was committed then he should have made a complaint, but just by saying that irregularities had been committed in releasing the payment against discrepant documents, does not serve any purpose. Besides, the plea of public interest at the appeal stage was an afterthought which was not substantiated by the appellant.
5. In view of the above submissions made by the respondents, the Commission upholds the decision of the CPIO & FAA. Accordingly, the appeal is disposed of.
Citation: Shri R K Tanwar v. State Bank of India in Appeal: No. CIC/VS/A/2013/002135/MP