India: RTI Act And Section 610 Of The Companies Act, 1956

The question as to whether a person may access the Right to Information (RTI) Act to obtain records from the Registrar of Companies [ROC] rather than through inspection under Section 610 of the Companies Act, 1956, was the subject matter of a dispute that has been recently decided by the Hon'ble Delhi High Court in the case of Registrar of Companies & Othrs. v. Dharmendra Kumar Garg and Anr, decided on 01.06.2012 [W.P.(C) 11271/2009].

The answer to the above question was lined in favour of the ROC, who had denied to provide information sought by queriest under the RTI Act on the ground that the Act was unavailable to applicants when the same right could be exercised through inspection under section 610 of the Companies Act.

The Hon'ble Delhi Court while observing the provisions of Section 610 of the Companies Act and the corresponding provisions of the RTI Act categorically held that:

"The mere prescription of a higher charge in the other statutory mechanism (in this case Section 610 of the Companies Act), than that prescribed under the RTI Act does not make any difference whatsoever. The right available to any person to seek inspection/copies of documents under Section 610 of the Companies Act is governed by the Companies (Central Government's) General Rules & Forms, 1956, which are statutory rules and prescribe the fees for inspection of documents, etc. in Rule 21A. The said rules being statutory in nature and specific in their application, do not get overridden by the rules framed under the RTI Act with regard to prescription of fee for supply of information, which is general in nature, and apply to all kinds of applications made under the RTI Act to seek information. It would also be complete waste of public funds to require the creation and maintenance of two parallel machineries by the ROC – one under Section 610 of the Companies Act, and the other under the RTI Act to provide the same information to an applicant. It would lead to unnecessary and avoidable duplication of work and consequent expenditure.

In the present case, the facility is made available – not just to citizens but to any person, for obtaining information from the ROC, under Section 610 of the Companies Act, and the Rules framed thereunder above referred to. Section 4(2) of the RTI Act itself postulates that in respect of information provided by the public authority suo moto, there should be minimum resort to use of the RTI Act to obtain information".

Court further observed that it does not find anything inconsistent between the scheme provided under Section 610 of the Companies Act and the provisions of the RTI Act. Merely because a different charge is collected for providing information under Section 610 of the Companies Act than that prescribed as the fee for providing information under the RTI Act does not lead to an inconsistency in the provisions of these two enactments. Even otherwise, the provisions of the RTI Act would not override the provision contained in Section 610 of the Companies Act. Section 610 of the Companies Act is an earlier piece of legislation.

While observing the above, the Hon'ble court relied on various judicial pronouncements of the Hon'ble apex court and eminent writers like the case of Ashoka Marketing Limited and Another Vs. Punjab National Bank and Others, (1990) 4 SCC 406; well-known work "Principles of Statutory Interpretation 12th Edition 2010" by Justice G.P. Singh; R.S. Raghunath Vs. State of Karnataka & Another, (1992) 3 SCC 335; Maharaja Pratap Singh Bahadur Vs. Thakur Manmohan Dey & Others, AIR 1996 SC 1931 etc.

Conclusion

Therefore, in the light of the above judgment it can be concluded that in case the documents or information sought from the Registrar of Companies where inspection of the said records is already available in the public domain under Section 610 of the Companies Act, 1956 RTI Act would not apply.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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