An application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, requisitioning inspection reports of National Stock Exchange (NSE) prepared by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has been declined, stating that the information pertains to internal functioning of the market regulator, “the disclosure of which may hamper the decision making by SEBI in its supervisory and regulatory role.”
The information pertained to the period from 2013 till date.
The central public information officer (CPIO), on 23 March 2022, further replied that, “information sought includes commercial confidential information of other entities, the disclosure of which could harm their competitive position and, as such, information sought is exempt under Section 8(1)(d) of RTI Act.”
The applicant is the noted RTI activist, Subhash Chandra Agrawal. He laments that he based his application on the Supreme Court (SC) judgement which had clearly considered inspection reports prepared by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) of public and private banks as information under the RTI Act, as RBI is the regulatory body in respect of banks.
In the same vein, argues Mr Agrawal, “SEBI being regulatory public authority in respect of NSE, it is bound to provide inspection reports in respect of NSE under provisions of RTI Act. I also requested for web-link, if any, which has uploaded such information and file-notings, regarding the movement of this RTI application.”
Mr Agrawal has filed his first appeal with the first appellate authority (FAA) of SEBI. Regarding rejection of his RTI application on the grounds of exemption clauses, he argues, “Declining information by SEBI under such flimsy ground itself creates doubt about hiding some big irregularity by SEBI.
"As regards declining information for competitive position of NSE, the SC has directed RBI, in its regulatory authority, to provide copies of such inspection reports of all banks including private sector banks apart from public sector banks. Such verdict from the Supreme Court should, in fact, be auto-binding on all financial regulatory bodies including SEBI.”
In his first appeal, he has requested the FAA to direct the CPIO to provide information as sought in RTI application and that the documents may be provided free-of-cost under Section 7(6) of RTI Act, due to delay. He has also appealed for reserving his right to claim compensation, imposition of penalty and recommending disciplinary action against concerned ones at SEBI as provided in RTI Act.
Several years back, Moneylife
had reported on how the central information commission had issued a show-cause notice to SEBI’s whole-time member, MS Sahoo asking why Rs25,000 compensation should not be paid to the appellant for not handling the matter responsibly under the norms of the RTI Act. The order was issued in connection with an appeal filed seeking information about all communication received by the market regulator from the capital markets division of the finance ministry. That was before the SC order, in 2010. (Read: Information Commissioner lambasts SEBI for providing misleading information under RTI Act
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also the convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)