Delhi High Court has ruled that private companies which fall under the purview of government regulators cannot shirk their responsibilities under
Facts of the case
Supreme Court Advocate Kabir Shankar Bose had requested information from Vodafone India regarding “surveillance, tracking or tapping of his mobile number by any agency.” The company had replied back that under the Right to Information Act, 2005 they are private fall hence are not required to comply with the provisions of the said Act. Frustrated with this approach of Vodafone India Advocate Bose approached CentralInformation Commission (CIC) for relief. CIC in its September 12, 2018 order directed TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) to collect and compile the said information and furnish it to Advocate Bose as early as possible.
TRAI aggrieved by the said order of CIC filed an appeal with the Delhi High Court. TRAI contended that primarily it is a regulatory authority and if any consumer had a complaint with their fall, such as Vodafone India, then it can address the issue. Since Advocate Bose’s request has already been denied by Vodafone India stating that it cannot be maintained under the RTI Act, 2005 TRAI cannot further pursue the issue. TRAI further claimed that the respondent, Advocate Kabir Shankar Bose should have “approached the authority provided under Telecom Consumer Complaint Redressal Regulations, 2012 and the petitioner does not have the information sought by the respondents. Thus, the impugned order is liable to be set aside.”
The case was heard by Single Judge Bench, Honourable Justice Suresh Kumar Kait who went through the arguments of both the appellant and respondent before giving his verdict. Justice Kait remarked that “since the respondent does not have a mechanism to get the redressal of the information sought, in my considered view, the respondent has rightly approached the CIC” for relief and information. Regarding the authority of TRAI and its responsibilities Justice Kait expounded “under Section 12 of the TRAI Act, 1997, the petitioners has the power to call for any information, conduct investigations, etc., where, the authority considers it expedient so to do. It cannot be said that the petitioner has no power to call information from the private body i.e. Vodafone India.”
Placing reliance upon the judgment of Delhi High Court in Poorna Prajna Public School Vs. Central Information Commission & Ors. in WP(C). No. 7265/2018, Justice Kait reiterated that,
“It is not in dispute that the petitioner has sought information from the Vodafone Authority which was denied on the ground that it is a private body and it does not come under the purview of RTI Act, 2005, thus, the respondent/applicant cannot be left remediless in view of the powers of the petitioner.
“Information as defined in Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act
includes ambit, inits the information relating to any privatebody which canbe assessed by public authority underrespondent has for thetime being. Therefore, inforce if apublic authority right hasa and isentitled to accessinformation from aprivate body, under any other law, it is„information‟ as definedin Section 2 (f) of theRTI Act. Thus, it is obligationon the publicauthority to getthe information from the and privatebody furnish thesame to theapplicant. Therefore ,therespondent can seek the information from the service provider under Regulations, 2012 and the same may be furnished to therespondent.”
Impact of the judgment
The ambit of the RTI Act which was initially confined by the Supreme Court decision in Central Board of Secondary Education and Another Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay and ors. (2011) 8 SCC 497 whereby the Apex Court had upheld that “indiscriminate and impractical demands or directions under RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information would be counterproductive as it will adversely affect the efficiency of the administration and result in the executive getting bogged down with the non-productive work of collecting and furnishing information,” had been broadened by this decision.
It falls that the superior Court had made an observation in that particular case regarding the scope of