Supreme Court dismissed petition against holding CIAL a public authority under RTI Act
SUPREME COURT ORDER
In an order fated 23.01.2023 in the case of M.R. Ajayan v. M/s Cochin International Airport Ltd. & Ors., the Supreme Court dismissed the petition [Petition(s) for Special Leave to Appeal (C) No(s).1373/2023], against the Kerala High Court order (Division Bench) judgment. A Bench of Justices of Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy was hearing a petition filed by MR Ajayan (Editor of Green Kerala News). Upon hearing the counsel, the Court made the following order:
“Having heard learned counsel for the petitioner and having perused the material placed on record, we do not find any reason to entertain this petition under Article 136 of the Constitution of India.
The petition seeking special leave to appeal is, accordingly, dismissed.
All pending applications also stand disposed of.”
WHAT DID THE HIGH COURT JUDGMENT SAY?
The Division bench of the Kerala High Court referred to the provisions of Article 95 and 125 of the Articles of Association of the Company and other documents and observed as under:
- The aims and object of the Cochin International Airport (CIAL), read with provisions of Article 95 and 125 of the Articles of Association would lead to an irresistible conclusion that the Government of Kerala had Deep and Pervasive control over the Company. As per the provisions of the Articles of Association, the Managing Director shall have the general directions, management and supervision of the business of the Company with powers to do all acts, matters, things deem necessary for carrying out the business of the Company. Thus, his control is also Deep and pervasive. The Board de facto is controlled by the Chief Minister and three other ministers of the Cabinet and the senior IAS officer of the State. The Government order of 15.6.2016, also is a testimony to the fact that the Managing Director of the CIAL would be drawing a salary from the Government of Kerala in the capacity of the Additional Chief Secretary in the Government.
- The facts cumulatively noticed above along with the Articles of Association, and acceptance of the candid admission of the Company on their website leaves no manner of doubt that the State of Kerala has deep and pervasive control and therefore the petitioner Company CIAL would definitely fall within the definition of public authority as defined under Section 2(h) “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted (a) by or under the Constitution; (b) by any other law made by Parliament; (c) by any other law made by State Legislature; (d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any- (i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) non-Government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government; (d) (i) and (ii) of the Act. It is held that the CIAL is a public authority.
- The minutes of the Board meeting, after its approval are sent to the registrar of Company. It is therefore a public document and thus cannot be said to be personal information as exempted under section 8(1)(j) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. of the Act. The order of the State Information Commission dated 20.6.2019 in batch of petitions assailed by the petitioners is perfectly justified and legal.
The Supreme Court judgment has an impact on many organisations working in the country such as:
- Delhi International Airport Private Limited (DIAL) –
In the case of Ashok Golas v. CPIO, ED(CA & CS) & Central Nodal Officer(RTI), Ministry of Civil Aviation, Airports Authority of India (AA) in File No: CIC/MOCAV/A/2017/146842/SD, Date of Decision : 11/03/2019, the CIC observed as under “It is emphasized therefore that even if CPIO’s claim of DIAL not being a public authority is conceded with, fact remains that the Appellant has sought information from a public authority and not from DIAL, therefore the contention of the CPIO that DIAL is not a public authority will not apply to the merits of this case”.
Read more at: https://www.rtifoundationofindia.com/pio-transferred-rti-application-us-63-dial-while-s
- Earlier, the Hon'ble Delhi High Court vide WP(C) 3815/2011, order dated May 30, 2011, observed in para 5 as under:
" ...In the circumstances, while keeping the question of law whether DIAL is a public authority under Section 2(h) “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted (a) by or under the Constitution; (b) by any other law made by Parliament; (c) by any other law made by State Legislature; (d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any- (i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) non-Government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government; of the RTI Act, 2005 open for consideration in another appropriate case, the writ petition is disposed of with no order as to costs."
- Overturning its earlier decision in CIC/OK/C/2006/00125 dated 17.01.2007, the CIC held that DIAL is not a public authority [Satya Prakash Rathee v. Delhi International Air Port Ltd. (DIAL), CIC/OP/A/2009/000129; 05.10.2018].
- Mumbai International Airport (MIAL) –
In an order dated 30 March 2011, the CIC held that MIAL comes under the purview of the RTI Act. However, in an order dated 18.05.2020 in the case of Sanjay Ramesh Shirodkar v. MIAL, CIC/MA/C/2008/000195, the CIC held that MIAL is not a ‘public authority’ u/s 2 (h). It may be open to the complainant to seek information through public authority for MIAL i.e. AAI or Ministry of Civil Aviation as the case may be.
Readers may refer to an old article by this website titled “Is Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) covered under RTI Act? Published on 15 Apr, 2015. In its order dated January 31, the SIC directed the CIAL to reveal the minutes of the board meetings pertaining to a certain period by April 5.
For a reading of the Kerala High Court Judgment (Division Bench and Single Bench, please click the link below).
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2023/CIC/1504
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission