Application of Right to Information Act 2005 on private companies– In case the applicant (third party) files RTI application and seeks information directly from the Private Companies. Whether It Is Liable to furnish the said information under the RTI Act or Not.
The Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI ACT) was enacted to obtain information from the Public Authority which is defined under Section 2 (h) of the Act. The provisions of the Act are only related with the information to be obtained from public authorities. The Act is not applicable on private companies. However the information of the private company can be obtained from its regulator if so.Relevant provisions in the Act in support of the same are as follows:-
1. Preamble of the Act reads as under :-
“An act to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every Public Authority, the Constitution of the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Whereas …”
2 . Definition of Information Section 2 (f) of the Act reads as under :-
“Information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.
3. As per Section 2(h) of the Act - “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 the state legislature;
d. By notification issued or order made by the appropriate government, and includes any –
(i) Body owned, controlled or substantially financed,
(ii) Or Non-government organisation substantially financed,
Directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government;…..”
a. As per Section 2(j) of the Act - “Right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by under the control of any public authority and includes the right to –
(i) Inspection of work, documents, records ;
(ii) Taking notes, extracts, or certified copies of documents or records;
(iii) Taking certified samples of material;
(iv) Obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video-cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device;
Public Authority includes the private organisations which are receiving financial aid from the State government.
In M.P. Varghese Vs. Mahatma Gandhi University AIR 2007 Ker 230, the Hon’ble Kerala High Court while elaborating the meaning of public authority in the RTI Act 2005 states that those organisations which are receiving the financial aid from the State are under the ambit of the public authority. The word State is defined under Article 12 of the Constitution in relation to the enforcement of fundamental rights through courts, whereas the RTI Act is intended at achieving the object of providing aneffective framework for effectuating the right to information recognised under Article 19 of Constitution of India.
Information of the Private Companies can only be accessed from its regulator
The information of the private companies can only be obtained from its regulator. Regulators can provide only the information a company is bound to furnish. At the same time, not all this information can be shared with the applicant. The Act, under Sections 8 and 9, exempts certain categories of information from disclosures.
Application of the Act only on public servants
This new legislation has brought about the sense of devotion towards duty and tendency to adhere to the laws and norms amongst the public servants in discharge of their official duties as they have been made to realize under this Act that any willful breach of the laws, norms and the official duties on their part may invite punitive action against them under the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. See -- Jitendra Singh vs. State of U.P., 2008 (2) AWC 2067 (All).
Therefore, in the given circumstance and factual position of law, it is clear and well stated that only government organisation and government funded organisations are covered under the ambit of RTI Act 2005. The RTI Act is not applicable on Private Companies. However, it is specifically mentioned in the Act that the information of private companies can be sought from its regulator if any.
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