Cooperatives, including banks, not under RTI

Written by Indu Bhan | Updated: Oct 23 2013, 08:39am hrs
Relaxation in dud cheques fine

Setting aside a Calcutta High Court judgment in the case of Somnath Sarkar vs Utpal Basu, the Supreme Court has ruled that courts cannot impose a fine more than twice the amount a cheque carries if it bounces.

It said that the stringent provisions in the Negotiable Instruments Act providing punishment for bounced cheques is only a mode to ensure recovery of money. Under the Act, an accused in a cheque-bounce case can be sentenced to a maximum of a year or fined twice the default amount, or both.

the power to levy fine is circumscribed under the statute to twice the cheque amount. Even in a case where the court may be taking a lenient view in favour of the accused by not sending him to prison, it cannot impose a fine more than twice the cheque amount. That statutory limit is inviolable and must be respected, the apex court said, while relaxing the sentence on the defaulter.

In this case, a cheque of R69,500 issued by Sarkar bounced. While waiving his jail term of six months, the HC asked the defaulter to pay a compensation amounting to R80,000 plus twice the cheque amount (R1,49,500). However, the apex court after accepting Sarkars plea that he is a man of limited financial means reduced the liability to R80,000 as compensation to the complainant plus R20,000 as fine.

Clarity on Modvat rules

Dismissing the appeal of the department in a batch of cases led by Commissioner of Central Excise vs M/s Kay Kay Industries, the Supreme Court said that relevant provisions in the Central Excise Rules 1944 and the subsequent 1997 notification only required the manufacturer of final products to take reasonable steps to ensure that the inputs acquired by him are goods on which the duty has been paid.

The proviso requires 'reasonable care' and not verification from the revenue authorities whether the duty stands paid by the assessee, it said, while rejecting the departments view that it was obligatory on the part of the assessee to ensure that the appropriate duty of excise had been paid on the inputs used in the manufacture of it final product as required under Rule 57A(6) of the Central Excise Rules.

In the lead case, Kay Kay Industries had availed deemed Modvat credit on the basis of invoices issued by supplier Sawan Mal Shibhu Mal Steel Re-Rolling Mills, which allegedly had not discharged full duty liability.

The adjudicating authority disallowed the deemed Modvat benefit earlier availed and ordered for recovery of the liability along with interest and penalty. Both the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal and the HC favoured the company.

Coop societies not under RTI

Cooperative societies including coop banks will not fall within the definition of 'public authority' for purposes of the Right to Information Act, and hence the Registrar of Cooperative Societies is not liable to provide information to the general public under this law, the Supreme Court has held in the case, Thalappalam Service Coop Bank Ltd vs state of Kerala.

It said that the powers exercised by the Registrar and others under the Cooperative Societies Act are only regulatory or supervisory and will not amount to dominating or interfering with the management or affairs of the society so as to control it. Besides, the societies are not statutory bodies and are not performing any public functions and will not come within the expression state within the meaning under Article 12 of the Constitution of India, it added.

Recognising that the right to privacy was a sacrosanct facet of Article 21 of the Constitution, the apex court said that if the information relates to personal information, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual, the Registrar, even if he has got that information, is not bound to furnish the same to an applicant, unless he is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information, that too, for reasons to be recorded in writing.

In this case, various coop societies had challenged the full Bench of the Kerala High Courts judgment that upheld the state governments circular and brought coops within the RTI ambit. The state government claimed the circular to be in the larger public interest so as to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every co-operative society in Kerala.

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