New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Monday set aside the CIC's order imposing Rs 25,000 as fine on the External Affairs Ministry's PIO for delay in giving a Kerala MLA some information on Indo-Russia trade agreement on an RTI application.
Disposing of the Centre's plea against the transparency panel's order, Justice V K Jain set aside the July, 2011 order imposing the fine on the MEA PIO for the delay.
The CIC had passed the order on the plea of P C George, a Kerala MLA from Poonjar assembly segment and also the chief whip of the state's ruling party, who had sought to know from the Ministry's Principal Information Officer in 2008 if India had any trade agreement with Russia on the basis of special payment arrangements like Rupee-Rouble debt agreement.
"The court (Justice Jain) directed the Ministry of External Affairs to provide copies of the documents through counsel within two weeks.... The petition is disposed. The cost of Rs 25,000 was set aside," said Wills Mathews counsel, who appeared for George, in the case.
With the Ministry refusing to part with the information to George on the ground that the issue involved a foreign government and required its consent for divulging the information, the MLA had challenged the Ninistry's refusal before the CIC.
The CIC had subsequently in January 2010, asked the Ministry to provide the requisite information to George by February 2010, but following the Ministry's failure to comply with its order, it imposed the fine on the PIO on July 11, last year.
In its plea before the High Court, the Centre challenged the CIC's order saying the information sought by George pertains to bilateral agreement with a foreign government and it required the time-consuming process of taking the foreign government's consent before making any disclosure.
"The Rupee-Rouble Debt Agreement, being an inter-governmental agreement, binds both parties legally and it is implicit that the content of this agreement, being financial in nature, would require formal consent of the other legal signatory," government said.
While state governments are the appropriate authorities for regulations of such 'Chit Fund' companies under the Chit Funds Act 1982, the MCA had ordered a probe in April after a huge public outcry over Saradha scam in West Bengal.
A Special Task Force (STF) was set up in the SFIO to look into the functioning of the so called 'Chit Fund companies' in the country as a whole at that time.
The ministry said that several corrective measures have already been initiated by the Government by constituting an inter-ministerial Group to work out the modalities for better inter-agency coordination.
Regulatory agencies such as market regulator Sebi and the Reserve Bank and those under the MCA have also launched media campaigns aimed at cautioning investors not to fall prey to fraudulent companies.
Meanwhile, keeping her promise to return money to the poor who had invested in the Saradha Group that went bust in April, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today distributed cheques to 929 such depositors.
Those who received cheques, as recommended by the Justice (Retd) Shyamal Sen Commission set up the West Bengal government, had invested up to Rs 10,000 in the ponzi schemes.
Banerjee called upon people not to make any investment henceforth in any chit fund company in view of the Saradha Group scam in which thousands had been defrauded.
Justice (Retd) Sen said that in addition to today's 929 depositors, payment would be made to 1.04 lakh depositors before Durga Puja and two lakh more before Kali Puja.
Justice (Retd) Sen said that nearly Rs 50 crore would be spent before Kali Puja on making payment to the Saradha Group depositors. The state government earlier had set up a fund of Rs 500 crore for the purpose.
So far, the Commission has heard nearly 8,000 depositors, while 17.39 lakh depositors registered their complaints.