The Delhi High Court has issued notices to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) and the Bangalore-based RTI applicant in the matter of a recent order by the Central Information Commission (CIC) in the Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) insider trading case. The notices came after the hearing of a petition by RIL challenging the CIC order, which had directed Sebi to reveal identities of the entities involved and investigation reports in the case.
The petition first came up in the chief justice’s court, as RIL had raised a constitutional issue. “Though as per the roster of this Court, the writ petition challenging the order of the CIC is to be heard by a single judge of this Court but the same is listed before us because the petitioner has also sought a declaration of “Sections 8(1)(d) and 8(1)(e) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 as ultra vires, unconstitutional and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India,” the high court judgment on November 21 said.
The court dismissed this contention, but directed the challenge of the CIC order to a single judge for consideration on merits. “We have as such first heard the senior counsel for the petitioner on the vires of Sections 8(1)(d) and 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act inasmuch as if we do not find any merit in the said challenge, the petition so far as challenging the order dated 6.11.2012 of the CIC, is to be considered by a single judge bench of this court.”
After hearing the matter on November 22, the single judge issued notices as given above. According the Delhi High Court website, the next hearing on the matter is on January 30, 2013.
Any disclosure of information is likely only after this hearing. Earlier Sebi and the RTI applicant had moved the Bombay High Court. Now, with the Delhi High Court issuing notices, the matter may be proceeded here by all parties, legal experts said.
Section 8 of the RTI Act details the information which is exempt from disclosure. Clauses (d) and (e) of sub-section (1) thereof exempts from disclosure:
(i) Information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party; and
(ii) Information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship.
However both the aforesaid exemptions are subject to a proviso which says: “Unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.” It is under this proviso that CIC had ordered the disclosure of information.
Arun Agarwal, the applicant, said, “It appears that what was to be made available to me in 30 days for Rs 10 under the RTI Act, may now take five years and Rs 5 lakh.”
An email seeking comments sent to RIL did not elicit any response.