Central Excise benefits given to India Carbon Ltd, Guwahati were denied claiming it as third party information - FAA: refunds under Notification 20/2007-CE are concessions liable for disclosure - CIC: disclose the criteria for granting concessions
1. The appellant was not present for the hearing. The respondent was present and heard via video conference. The respondent was represented by Shri A.B Dutta (Joint Commissioner) and Ms Babneet Tuli (Asst. Commissioner).
2. The present appeals are being heard in continuation of previous hearings in both the files. The matter was scheduled for hearing on 1.2.2012 and 23.6.2012 through video conference, however, the matter remained inconclusive. Due to re-allocation of work the said appeal was transferred to various registries, however, as the matter is part heard, therefore, have been recalled and listed for hearing. The file is being disposed off vide common order as it pertains to same subject matter and also that some of the RTI queries are identical.
3. The appellant sought information vide his RTI application dated 16.8.2010 and 24.9.2010 relating to excise benefits given to Guwahati Plant of India Carbon Limited, Guwahati, Assam by Central Excise, Guwahati on the basis of Notification No. 20/2007-Central Excise dated 25.4.2007 of Department of Revenue , Ministry of Finance and North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP) 2007 dated 1.4.2007 of Government of India, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion. In application dated 16.8.2010 the appellant has sought information on (15) points like details of equipments installed in Guwahati Plant of India Carbon Ltd including their respective date of installation, names and addresses of suppliers of equipments installed in Guwahati Plant of India Carbon Ltd and its estimated value, effectiveness of equipments with regard to reducing Pollution vis-à-vis increase in production capacity etc. In RTI application dated 24.9.2010 the appellant sought details of excise duty paid by India Carbon Limited, Guwahati from 1.1.2000 till date, details of rebate/benefits, if any given to India Carbon Limited, Guwahati, Assam till date as per Notification dated 25.4.2007 no. 20/2007-CE, any excise duty benefit granted to India Carbon after implementation of the notification dated 25.4.2007, details including name/designation of the officers starting from inspector level which initiates proposals and finally granted the Central Excise duty benefits to India Carbon limited etc. The CPIO vide reply dated 10.9.2010 and 22.10.2010 denied the information the appellant while stating that the information sought pertains to third party and third party and a notice was given to M/s Carbon India Ltd for furnishing the required information which was denied by them stating that they are not a nongovernment organization not owned, controlled or substantially financed directly or indirectly by the Government. Not satisfied with the reply, the appellant filed first appeal before the first appellate authority. The first appellate authority vide order dated 7.10.2010 (in relation to RTI application dated 16.8.2010) held as under: “I find that the CPIO has not dealt the RTI application as per the provisions of the RTI Act 2005 and has not passed a speaking order giving his findings and reasons thereof. The CPIO has also not given the particulars of the appellate authority. The letter written to M/s India Carbon Ltd asking them to furnish the information is totally out of scope of the RTI Act. The appellant sought the information from the Central Excise Department, a public authority, on the reasonable belief that they are available with the latter. In any case, the public authority is to give information, which is already available to him. He is not supposed to collect information from third party to give to the RTI applicant. The manner of disposal of the RTI application by the CPIO is wrong and in total disregard to the provision of RTI Act. As regards, the information sought by the appellant, I find that some of them are of personal and commercial confidence of a third party and disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest and hence exempted from disclosure under section 8 (1) of the RTI Act, 2005. However, I find that the refund sanctioned to the assesses by Central Excide Department under Notification 20/07-CE dated 25.4.2007 under NEIIP policy are Government grants / concessions and do not fall in the category of ‘personal and commercial confidence’ of the third party and hence not covered under the exemption under section 8 (1) of the Act and should be revealed.” The first appellate authority passed an order dated 7.10.2010 (in relation to RTI application dated 24.9.2010) on similar lines.
4. In compliance of the directions of the first appellate authority the CPIO issued two replies dated 22.10.2010 wherein the CPIO relied on Judgment of the Hon’ble Gujrat High Court in Reliance Industries Ltd. Vs Gujrat State Information Commission and Ors.(Spl. Civil Appln. Nos 16073 and 17067 of 2007) decided on 16.8.2007 and denied the information on all points under section 8 (1) (j), (d) and 11 of the RTI Act.
5. The Commission has perused the Judgment of the Hon’ble Gujrat High Court and the Commission is of the view that the said Judgment of the Hon’ble High Court of Gujrat does not bar disclosure of information completely in the present appeal. The said Judgment is in the context of the procedure of issuing notice to third under section 11 of the RTI Act. Furthermore, during the hearing the present CPIO submits that the information which pertains to the eligibility criteria for granting concessions can be considered for disclosure. The Commission is also of the view that the decision of the first appellate authority is appropriate as per the RTI Act and that the previous CPIO has not considered the RTI application as per the directions of the first appellate authority, instead, the previous CPIO has denied the entire information without considering the RTI application point wise. The Commission hereby directs the CPIO to disclose the information at point no. (1) & (2) of the RTI application dated 16.8.2010 only to that extent which pertains to the eligibility criteria for such concessions granted by their department in terms of Notification dated 25.4.2007 of the Department of Excise and Notification dated 1.4.2007 of the Ministry of Commerce referred to above. The information sought at point (3) and (8) may not be disclosed as it is not specific. The information sought at rest of the points of RTI application dated 16.8.2010 and in RTI application dated 24.9.2010 shall be provided to the appellant within two weeks from the receipt of this order.
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Mr Ajay Kumar v. Central Excise in Case No. CIC/SS/A/2011/000515CIC/SS/A/2011/001568