26 April 2010

The Delhi High Court has held in a ruling that exchanges are 'public authority' under the Right to Information Act, 2005. This would subject them to an application by any citizen to seek any information from the exchange. The case was a writ petition filed challenging the full bench decision of the Central Information Commission (CIC).

It is of particular interest to me because I had argued the case before the full - 5 member bench of the CIC in 2007 arguing for SEBI that exchanges be considered state. SEBI's chief argument in law was simple and effective (though there are several other grounds filed), exchanges are 'state' under the constitution and therefore amenable to writ jurisdiction of courts. The term used in the RTI Act 'public authority' is very broad and much broader than the term 'state'. Given that the Supreme Court has held exchanges to be 'state', CIC must rule that exchanges are 'public authority' - since 'state' is a sub set of 'public authority', no other ruling is possible.

The High Court re-affirms this point, though without explicitly reasoning why 'state' is a sub-set of 'public authority'. The ruling does not go into the shareholding of NSE and thus the reasoning would apply to BSE as well (as to all exchanges).

PS: Interesting to know high court rulings now come with hyperlinks. Impressive, given how tech unfriendly courts are.

Also interesting to see in the people who argued the case given, that SEBI is absent.

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