Share Tweet Share Share Krishnaraj Rao Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi is the poster boy of RTI activists. But an order given by him on 30th December 2011 will surely tempt RTI activists to wonder about his application of mind to the essential points. Because, Mr Gandhi has told the average citizen of India that information about an infrastructure loan of Rs 4,200 crore given by IDBI Bank Ltd. to Mumbai Airport Authority Ltd. (MIAL) is protected by their “fiduciary relationship” and therefore, it is none of the citizen’s business! The appellant in this case, Pune-based RTI activist Sanjay Shirodkar is of course amazed to hear this from Mr Gandhi. But this order is likely to give RTI activists all over the country a serious case of heartburn. Read Shailesh Gandhi’s Order: http://rti.india.gov.in/cic_decisions/CIC_SG_A_2011_002878_16667_M_73304.pdf LOOK AT THE FACTS OF THE CASE: Mumbai International Airport is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) project. MIAL is the PPP consortium in which Airport Authority of India (i.e. Govt of India) has a 26% shareholding. GVK Industries Ltd, and two rather dubious Mauritius-based khokha companies hold the remaining 74% shares. MIAL is a major beneficiary of public funds – 2000 acres of prime land in Mumbai, valued at Rs 50,000 crore, for which it is paying AAI the princely sum of Rs 100 per annum as lease rent. MIAL is playing a governmental role. It is in whole-and-sole control of Mumbai Airport. [All of this is the official position, confirmed by two previous orders given by Central Information Commission. CIC MM Ansari’s order in 2008, and then again by CIC Sushma Singh’s order in 2011: http://www.rti.india.gov.in/cic_decisions/CIC_MA_C_2008_00195_SS_M_57922.pdf ] And now, on the other side of the transaction, you have IDBI Bank – India’s fourth-largest PUBLIC SECTOR BANK, which extends a huge loan consisting of RS 4,200 CRORE OF PUBLIC MONEY. OUR QUESTIONS TO SHAILESH GANDHI: CIC Shailesh Gandhi, Sir, a public sector bank extends a huge INFRASTRUCTURE LOAN (and not a personal loan for, say, GVK Reddy’s daughter’s wedding) to a dodgy consortium. And you say it is NOT public interest? You say that this information is exempted from information, given the “fiduciary relationship” between the lender and the borrower? This loan is for a Public-Prive Partnership project, presumably for the use of the good of the Indian citizen. And you say that it is none of our business? That the underlying documents and details of the transaction, which Sanjay Shirodkar asked for, is a private matter between the two transacting parties? MIAL is a well-known fugitive or defaulter as far as the Sunshine Act is concerned. They are consistently stonewalling activists from every angle. No sooner CIC orders them to disclose information, than MIAL goes to Delhi High Court and gets a stay. The only way to get any information from them is to go to other entities like IDBI. Surely you, of all the people, know that? Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects of various kinds are, as a group, fugitives from RTI Act. They are regularly stonewalling and defying orders of Information Commissions. Under the cover of this secrecy, they are looting public moneys from various government entities. Hence the urgent need for citizens to get information from other routes such as public sector banks lending to them. Surely, Sir, you are aware of this? And last but not least, on a very personal note: Three years ago, you introduced the appellant Sanjay Shirodkar to me, specifically to assist him in getting information from MIAL. Sir, have you forgotten? Under the circumstances, we citizens have no option but to take the position that if seeking Public Private Partnerships’ information is not in public interest, then maybe the PPPs themselves are not in public interest. Evidently, they are only in the private interest of the private parties involved, and the ministers and officials who are in their pay. Maybe it is time for us to agitate for immediate closure of all PPP projects.