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RTI >> Judgments >> Supreme Court >> Exemption >> Fiduciary Relationship
High Courts(Fiduciary Relationship)/ CIC(Fiduciary Relationship)
1 26 Apr, 2019 Girish Mittal Vs. Parvati V. Sundaram & Anr.

Brief fact of the judgment

The subject matter of the judgment in Reserve Bank of India v. Jayantilal N. Mistry1 is whether the information sought under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘RTI Act’) can be denied by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the other banks on the ground of economic interest, commercial confidence, fiduciary relationship or public interest. The facts of all the 11 Writ Petitions which were transferred to this Court are similar. The information that was sought by the Respondents in the transfer cases was refused on the ground that there was a fiduciary relationship between the RBI and the other banks, and hence, the information cannot be disclosed in view of the exemption under Section 8(1)(d) and (e) of the RTI Act. In all the cases that were transferred to this Court, the Central Information Commissioner directed the RBI to disclose the information sought for by the Respondents in the transfer cases. The RBI assailed the orders passed by the Central Information Commission by filing Writ Petitions in the High Courts which were transferred to this Court and decided by the judgment dated 16.12.2015. In the said judgment dated 16.12.2015, this Court held that the Right to Information Act, 2005 overrides all earlier laws in order to achieve its objective and the only exceptions to access to information were those which were contained in Section 8 of the RTI Act. The argument of the RBI that the information sought for by the Respondents therein was rightly refused on the ground of fiduciary relationship, was rejected by this Court. It was observed by this Court that there is no fiduciary relationship between the RBI and the financial institutions and by attaching an additional ‘fiduciary’ label to the statutory duty, regulatory authorities have intentionally or unintentionally created an in terrorem effect. This Court further emphasized that RBI has a statutory duty to uphold the interests of the public-at-large, the depositors and the country’s economy and the banking sector. This Court was also of the opinion that the RBI should act with transparency and not hide information that might embarrass the individual banks and that the RBI is dutybound to comply with the provisions of the RTI Act and disclose the information sought by the Respondents therein. The submission made on behalf of the RBI that the disclosure would hurt the economic interests of the country was found to be totally misconceived. While referring to Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, this Court was of the opinion that the intent of the Legislature was to make available to the general public such information which had been obtained by the public authorities from private bodies. On the basis of the above observations, it was held that the RBI is liable to provide information regarding inspection reports and other documents to the general public.

Decision of Supreme Court

There is an element of public policy in punishing civil contempt, since administration of justice would be undermined if the order of any Court of law could be disregarded with impunity.2 There is no ambiguity in the judgment of this Court dated 16.12.2015. After holding that there is no fiduciary relationship between the RBI and the other banks, this Court stressed the importance of the RTI Act, and held that it is in the interest of the general public that the information sought for by the Respondents therein has to be furnished. There is a specific reference to the inspection reports and the other materials, which were directed to be given to the Respondents therein. The only exception that was carved out by this Court is in paragraph 77 of the judgment, particularly, information which has a bearing on the security of the State etc. We are not persuaded to accept the submission of Mr. Gupta that the judgment dated 16.12.2015 requires reconsideration as we cannot consider the said submission while deciding the contempt petitions. After hearing the learned counsel for the parties, judgment was reserved in this case on 02.04.2019. The new disclosure policy was uploaded on the RBI website on 12.04.2019. Mr. Pranav Sachdeva, learned counsel for the petitioner is right in submitting that the new policy which replaces the disclosure policy dated 30.11.2016 directs various departments not to disclose information that was directed to be given by the judgment of this Court on 16.12.2015. The Respondents, in our opinion, have committed contempt of this Court by exempting disclosure of material that was directed to be given by this Court. In all fairness, Mr. Gupta has submitted that the disclosure policy shall be deleted from the website.

We do not agree with Mr. Gupta that a contempt petition is maintainable only at the behest of a party to the judgment. The directions issued by this Court are general in nature and any violation of such directions would enable an aggrieved party to file a contempt petition.

Though we could have taken a serious view of the respondents continuing to violate the directions issued by this Court, we give them a last opportunity to withdraw the disclosure policy insofar as it contains exemptions which are contrary to the directions issued by this Court. The Respondents are duty bound to furnish all information relating to inspection reports and other material apart from the material that was exempted in para 77 of the judgment. Any further violation shall be viewed seriously by this Court.

The contempt petitions are disposed of with the above directions.

2 16 Dec, 2015 Reserve Bank of India Vs Jayantilal N Mistry

RBI Vs Jayntilal N Mistry

The applicant sought information on Procedure Rules and Regulations of Inspection being carried out on Cooperative Banks, audit reports etc. CIC refused information under is
exempted under Section 8(1)(a) & (e)
of RTI Act. The First Appellate Authority disposed of
the appeal of the respondent agreeing with the reply given by CPIO.

CIC directed RBI to provide
information as per records to the Respondent.

The Hon’ble Court concurred with the decision of CIC that “The RBI would therefore be well advised to be proactive in disclosing information to the public in general and the information seekers under the RTI Act, in particular”.

Observations relating to ''Exemptions (fiduciary relationship)" are examined in detail in Para 48, 62 and 76 of the Judgment by the Court.

3 02 Sep, 2011 The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India Appellant Vs Shaunak H Satya and Ors

Whether the instructions and solutions made available the examiners in their fiduciary capacity and therefore exempted – the answer being ‘yes’
4 09 Aug, 2011 Central Board of Secondary Education and Anr Appellants Vs Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors

Once the examiner has evaluated the answer books he ceases to have any interest in the evaluation done by him. He does not have any copy right or proprietary right or confidentiality right in regard to the evaluation. Therefore it cannot be said that the examining body holds the evaluated answer books in a fiduciary relationship, qua the examiner.
Total Case uploaded: 4