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Disclose asset, income details of chairman, CIC tells Sebi

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to reveal the details of assets and liabilities of its chairman U K Sinha within four weeks. It also directed the regulator to declare Sinha’s total emoluments. A Sebi spokesperson said the regulator will appeal against the order.

Overturning its  2012 decision, the commission found the appeal to be a “fit case where the requested information should be disclosed in larger public interest.”

In its order dated November 28, the full bench of CIC said, “We are inclined to allow the disclosure of the requested information. The respondent is directed to provide the information sought in para 2 (a) and (b) above to the appellant within four weeks from the date of receipt of this order. The appeal is allowed.”

The appeal by Bengaluru-based advocate Arun Agrawal challenged the Sebi CPIO decision to reject an RTI application that sought “the assets and liabilities statement of Mr U K Sinha, Chairman Sebi for the last three years, or for the period declared by him; and (b) the total present emoluments of Mr U K Sinha, Chairman Sebi along with perquisites on which he has been employed with Sebi.”

In response to an email seeking comments, a Sebi spokesperson said, “It may be noted that out of four different cases of appeals filed by Shri Arun Kumar Agrawal, CIC in its earlier common order dated 06/11/2012 ,inter alia, held that  “the information regarding the assets and liabilities of the Chairman, Sebi is clearly in the nature of personal information exempt under subsection 1 (j) of section 8 of the RTI Act. We do not agree with the submissions of the appellant that greater public interest would warrant the disclosure of such information and would, therefore, not like to direct the CPIO to disclose any such information”.

The statement added that, “The Hon’ble Delhi High Court on an appeal, vide order dated 30/01/2013 remanded the order to CIC, on the ground that no notice was issued  by the CIC to the parties which had approached the Hon’ble High Court, without expressing any views on the merits of the matter. However, CIC vide its four separate orders dated 28/11/2014 reversed its earlier order in three cases and upheld the orders of CPIO.  With regard to order relating to disclosure of information relating to Chairman, Sebi, CIC has reversed its own decision of dated 06/11/2012, which is beyond its jurisdiction.  Sebi will prefer an appeal against the order of CIC.”

Sebi also pointed out that the points raised regarding compensation and salary and its disclosure raised before CIC were earlier raised by Agrawal before the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court had gone into these issues in detail and vide its order dated 01/11/2013 dismissed the writ petition. “It is also informed that Chairman, Sebi has been regularly filing his property returns as per extant guidelines.”

Even though the issues raised by Agrawal has been dealt with and his writ petition was dismissed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, he has been raising the same issues on various fora again and again, the Sebi spokesperson added.

In a separate order, the CIC also directed Sebi to disclose copies of all the documents along with file notings from the time of conception, preparing of the note to the approval and notification of the Circular that brought into effect the consent order mechanism and compounding of offences. However, it allowed Sebi to excise names and designations of officers making these file notings. Business Standard reported on Saturday that two other appeals of Agrawal, which were also part of CIC’s 2012 order, in which Reliance Industries had raised objections, were dismissed by the commission saying sufficient case of public interest was not made out.

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