PIO: the information concerning agenda, minutes and resolution of SCL Management Council denied u/s 8(1)(e) - CIC: relationship between the SCL & its Management Council is clearly not a fiduciary relationship; provide information
Although this has been registered as a Complaint, we are treating it as an appeal as in his letter dated 24.10.2013, vide which he approached the CIC, Shri Surinder Kumarhas described it as “An Appeal under Section 19 of the Right to Information Act, 2005.”
2. The Appellant filed an application with the Assistant Public Information Officer(APIO), Semi Conductor Laboratory (SCL), Mohali on 12.8.2013 asking for the following information:
“I. Agenda of SCL Management Council meeting held on November 3,2012.
II. Minutes of meeting of SCL Management Council held on November 3, 2012 regarding the enhancement in retirement age of SCL employees.
III. Resolution adopted by SCL Management Council in its meeting held on November 3, 2012 regarding enhancement in retirement age of SCL employees.”
3. The CPIO of SCL responded to the RTI query on 17.8.2013 stating the following:“Para 1 to 3: As per the voluntary disclosure made under section 4 (1) (b) (viii) of the RTI Act, 2005 by SCL on its website, the composition of the SCL Management Council as mentioned therein has been disclosed and the meetings / minutes of the SCL Management Council are not open to public and are not accessible to public. Hence, the information sought which pertains to agenda / minutes of SCL Management Council is exempted from disclosure under section 8 (1) (e) of RTI Act, 2005.”
4. Not satisfied with the reply of the CPIO, the Appellant filed an appeal to the First Appellate Authority (FAA) on 22.8.2013. The FAA upheld the decision of the CPIO vide his order dated 15.10.2013. Not satisfied with the order of the FAA, the Appellant has approached the Central Information Commission by filing an appeal under section 19 ofthe RTI Act.
5. We have heard and carefully considered the submissions of the Respondents and the Appellant. The Respondents reiterated the reply given by them to the Appellant vide the CPIO’s letter dated 17.8.2013. They stated that the SCL holds the information concerning meetings of their Management Council in a fiduciary capacity. They further stated that no larger public interest was involved because the Appellant was interested in the information in relation to his own retirement from the SCL. The Respondents also referred to the sensitive nature of the work of SCL. On the other hand, the Appellant submitted that information could not be denied to him in terms of section 8 (1) (e) of the RTI Act. He argued that the matter was of larger public interest in that the decision concerning enhancement of retirement age affected all employees of the SCL. He also referred to the Commission’s decision No. CIC/LS/A/2011/004091 dated 22.6.2012 which had directed the CPIO to disclose the information sought in that case from the SCL. However, it is noticed that in the above mentioned case, the SCL had denied information under section 8 (1) of the RTI Act, without mentioning any sub section of section 8 (1).However, in the matter now under consideration before the Commission, the Respondents have specifically invoked section 8 (1) (e) of the RTI Act to deny information.
6. Coming to the arguments advanced by the Respondents, it is stated in the CPIO’s reply dated 17.8.2013 that as per the voluntary disclosure made under section 4 (1) (b)(viii) of the RTI Act by SCL on its website, the composition of the SCL Management Council has been disclosed and the meetings / minutes of the said Council are not open to public and are not accessible to public. However, the Commission notes that in stating the above, the website of SCL does not refer to any section of the RTI Act under which the information is exempt and thus, being denied. The CPIO’s reply further states that the information sought, which pertains to agenda / minutes of the SCL Management Council is exempted from disclosure under section 8 (1) (e) of the RTI Act. Sub section (e) of section 8 (1) of the RTI Act provides for withholding of “information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.” In the case of Central Board of Secondary Education and Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors., the Hon’ble Supreme Court has made the following observation:
“……the words “information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship” are used in Section 8 (1) (e) of the RTI Act in its normal and well recognized sense, that is, to refer to persons who act in a fiduciary capacity, with reference to a specific beneficiary or beneficiaries who are to be expected to be protected or benefited by the actions of the fiduciary—a trustee with reference to the beneficiary of the trust, a guardian with reference to a minor / physically infirm / mentally challenged, a parent with reference to a child, a lawyer or a chartered accountant with reference to a client, a doctor or nurse with reference to a patient, an agent with reference to a principal, a partner with reference to another partner, a Director of a company with reference to a shareholder, an executor with reference to a legatee, a Receiver with reference to the parties to a lis, an employer with reference to the confidential information relating to the employee, and an employee with reference to business dealings / transaction of the employer.”
7. In view of the above observation of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, relationship between the SCL and its Management Council is clearly not a fiduciary relationship; nor does the SCL hold information concerning the meetings of its Management Council in a fiduciary capacity. Therefore, information cannot be withheld under section 8 (1) (e) of the RTI Act.
8. As for the issue of larger public interest, we note that the decision of the SCL Management Council regarding enhancement in retirement age of SCL employees is of interest not only to the Appellant, but to all the employees of the organization. Moreover, since as stated above, the ground of fiduciary relationship to withhold information does not apply in this case, consideration of whether the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information is not relevant. With regard to the reference of the Respondents to the sensitive nature of work of the SCL, it is noticed that the Appellant has sought information only in relation to the decision of the Management Council regarding enhancement in retirement age of SCL employees.
9. In view of the forgoing, the CPIO is directed to provide the following information to the Appellant within three weeks from the receipt of this order:(a) Portions of agenda of SCL Management Council Meeting held on November 3, 2012 and Minutes of this meeting, in so far as these relate to the issue of enhancement in retirement age of SCL employees.(b) Resolution adopted by SCL Management Council in its meeting held on November 3, 2012 regarding enhancement in retirement age of SCL employees.
10. With the above direction, the appeal is disposed of.
11. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Shri Surinder Kumar v. SEMI Conductor Laboratory in File No. CIC/SS/C/2013/900558/SH