Under RTI, is the SEBI enquiry liable to be disclosed?
The appellant filed two separate Right to Information (RTI) applications on the same day, seeking similar information in respect of RIL (Reliance Mukesh Dhirubhai Ambani Group of Companies) and RNRL group of companies. The appellant sought to know the number of notices issued by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) during a particular period against the RIL and RNRL for insider trading of share transfer. In the first case, the Public Information Officer (PIO) informed that the desired information was not available while in the other case, information was denied under section 8(1) (h) of the RTI Act claiming that quasi-judicial proceedings are in progress.
View of CIC
The Central Information Commission (CIC) held that even if it is admitted that certain quasi-judicial proceedings were in progress against the relevant group of companies for insider trading in share transfer, the total number of notices issued could have been mentioned by the PIO. Further, if the notices issued included any information regarding the nature of the violation, such as, the volume of insider trading of shares, even that information could have been provided. The CIC overruled the argument offered by the PIO that the disclosure of the desired information would impede the process of the quasi-judicial proceedings. The PIO was directed by the CIC to provide the number of notices the SEBI might have issued to these companies during the relevant period for insider trading in share transfer along with the other details included in the notices sent or separately maintained in a central register/database.
Charges of insider trading have been leveled against many organisations and SEBI has yet to come up with a strong indictment which stands judicial scrutiny. Public disclosure of investigations would put additional pressure on the SEBI to come up with real good results.
Citation: Mr. Debashish Nath v. Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in File No.CIC/SM/A/2011/002068