Indian Potash Ltd. is “public authority” under RTI Act

Central Information Commission (CIC) : While rejecting the contention of Indian Potash Ltd. (IPL) that it
does not fall within the purview of RTI Act as it was established under the
Companies Act, 1956, CIC held that IPL is “public authority” under Section 2
(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and hence, answerable to the citizens
of India under the Act. The order of the Commission came upon an appeal filed
by an RTI activist who sought information under the Act from IPL about the landed cost of Muriate of Potash (a common form
of potash) imported by IPL during the period between April, 2009 to October,
2010. IPL denied disclosure of the said information on the ground that
it having been incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 was not a “public
authority” as defined under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005. Before Commission, appellant submitted that website
of IPL reveals that it is controlled by the Government of India. IPL was established
in the name of Indian Potash Supplying Agency (IPSA) by the Ministry of
Commerce & Industry. IPSA was converted into Indian Potash Ltd. and its
members included Co-operative Sector and Public Sector Companies. It was
further stated that as IPL has to appoint Managing Director with the
concurrence of Government of India as stated in regulations of IPL Articles of
Associations, it is clear that IPL is controlled by the Ministry of Chemicals
& Fertilizers. Hence, IPL is a “public authority” as defined under Section
2(h) of RTI Act 2005. After perusal of material on record, CIC observed that
IPL gives credit to the Government of India for structuring its share capital
pattern and no Govt. official can hold the post of Chairperson or other Board
member of a company as controlling affairs of the company unless the company is
a Government company. Thus, it is apparent that the Govt. exercises its control
over IPL through its officials, appointed as Board of Directors. CIC further
noted that IPL is substantially financed indirectly by the appropriate
Government. Commission also observed that IPL enjoys a monopoly status which is State conferred and
was delivering a function for the benefit of farmers which is of public
importance and closely related to Govt. function, hence, comes within the
purview of “public authority” under Section 2 (h) of the Right to Information
Act, 2005. CIC further directed IPL to designate public information officers
(PIO) to answer the RTI queries and to post mandatory required information on
its website. [A. Ramanathan v. Indian
Potash Ltd., 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 2910, decided on 09.07.2015]
Source: Legal news India