Sunday, February 14, 2010

BIAL is a public entity, says High Court

BIAL is a public entity, says High Court
Bangalore, Feb 13, DH News Service:

The High Court of Karnataka has ruled that Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) is a public entity and has to furnish information under RTI.


Justice Ajit Gunjal gave this judgement on a petition filed by BIAL, challenging the order of the State Information Commission (SIC), which had ruled that BIAL is a public entity as it was substantially financed by the government.

Benson Isaac, a lecturer at St Joseph’s, had filed an application under RTI with BIAL, asking them to make a suo motu disclosure about their public information officer. BIAL then replied to him stating they were a company with equity participation by private sector to the extent of 74 per cent and were not a public authority as stated under the RTI Act and hence were under no obligation to provide information.

Isaac then appealed to the SIC on the grounds that Karnataka State Industrial Investment and Development Corporation (KSIIDC), had provided the airport site to BIAL free from all encumbrances under the lease agreement.

Interest-free loan

Under the same agreement, the State Government had given an interest-free loan of Rs 350 crore for financing the project. The state also owned a 26 per cent equity in BIAL and provided exemption from entry taxes, property taxes for five years, waver of stamp duties and registration charges, exemption from fees for change of land use and exemption from payment of road cess.

Based on the Section 14 of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Services) Act 1971, the SIC ruled that the financing by the Government promoters (directly and indirectly) was more than that by private promoters and therefore was ‘substantially financed” by the government. Hence it came under RTI.
They further held that project served a public purpose and the public had a right to know about the proper management of the project.

Challenged in the HC

This was challenged by BIAL in the High Court. Earlier Justice N Kumar had granted a stay on the SIC order.

A division bench of the High Court last year, while hearing another case, had held BIAL as the “instrumentality of the State.”

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