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The Central Information Commission has directed the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to make public the stake of Kalanithi Maran, brother of former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran, in Sun TV, saying such details cannot be held back citing commercial confidence.
"List of members of a company, shares issued, etc. are required to be furnished (usually by way of annual returns) to the Registrar of Companies in compliance with the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956.
"This information is available on the RoC website on payment of the prescribed fees. Therefore, such information cannot be treated as confidential, more so, because it is accessible to the public," Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said.
The case relates to an RTI application filed by one Vinod K Jose, who sought to know from the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry the stockholding of Kalanithi Maran and others in Sun TV network.
The Ministry had refused to provide information citing objections raised by Sun TV Network through a letter. The Commission invited Sun TV representatives to present their case before the panel.
"It was claimed that information regarding shareholding pattern is in the nature of commercial confidence-protected under Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act and disclosure of the same would harm the commercial interest of the Third Party (Sun TV)," Gandhi noted in his order.
Jose submitted that he required the information from an authentic source for the purposes of publication and that in itself qualified as being in public interest-under Section 8(2) of the RTI Act.
Gandhi said in the instant case the RTI applicant had sought to know details of the shareholding of Kalanithi Maran and other shareholders in Sun Direct TV (P) Ltd which is the third party in the case.
"In the opinion of this bench, the term 'commercial confidence' comprises commercial, business or financial information, which entities keep as confidential, or do not display or bring to the knowledge of the public, mostly with an intention to maintain an advantage over its competitors," he said in the order.
Gandhi said he could not agree with the contention of Sun TV that details of shareholding pattern are in the nature of 'commercial confidence'.
"This bench is of the view that disclosure of merely the shareholding pattern of Sun Direct TV (P) Ltd cannot put it at a disadvantage from its competitors. Therefore, the contention that the information sought was exempt under Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act is rejected," he said.
Rejecting another objection of Sun TV that the information was personal in nature, Gandhi said details of shareholders of Sun TV may be 'personal' information to the extent it relates to an individual shareholder only.
"Given that such information is already in public domain, disclosure of the same by the Respondent- public authority cannot be considered as an unwarranted invasion on the privacy of individual shareholders or the third party itself," he said directing the Ministry to disclose the information by February 25.