Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has been quoted as saying, "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."
The information was sought on the basis of an RTI application filed by Vinod K Jose who wanted to know the stakeholding of Kalanithi Maran in the Sun TV network from the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry. The Ministry had refused to divulge the information citing objections raised by Sun TV Network through a letter.
The Commission had invited Sun TV representatives to present their case before panel. Gandhi stated in his order, "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)."
Jose had sought the information from an authentic source for the purposes of publication and that it qualified as being in public interest-under Section 8(2) of the RTI Act. Gandhi explained in his order, "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 added, "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."
The CIC also rejected Sun TV's claims that the information asked was personal in nature, with Gandhi stating that the details of shareholders of Sun TV may be 'personal' information to the extent it relates to an individual shareholder only.
The commission directed the Ministry to disclose the information by Feb 25 and said, "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."