The Finance Ministry has told the Central Information Commission (CIC) that it does not have information about the loans given to industrialist Vijay Mallya, prompting the transparency panel to remark that the response was "vague and not sustainable as per law".
Chief Information Commissioner RK Mathur, while hearing the matter of one Rajiv Kumar Khare, told the finance ministry official that the Right to Information (RTI) application filed by the applicant should be transferred to the proper public authority.
The finance ministry official may have claimed that the ministry does not have information on the loans sanctioned by different banks to Mallya or the details of the guarantee given by Mallya against those loans, but the ministry had responded to questions in this regard in Parliament in the past.
Union Minister of State for Finance Santosh Gangwar had responded to a question on Mallya on March 17, 2017, stating that the person, whose name was mentioned (Mallya), was given a loan in September 2004 and that it was reviewed in February 2008.
The Rs 8,040 crore loan was declared a non-performing asset (NPA) in 2009 and the NPA was restructured in 2010, he had said.
"As reported by PSBs, an amount of Rs 155 crore has been recovered by conducting a mega online auction by selling from the seized properties from defaulting loan borrower Vijay Mallya," Gangwar had told the Rajya Sabha on March 21.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, during a debate on demonetisation in the Upper House on November 17, 2016, had termed the loan issue of Mallya a "terrible legacy" that the NDA government had inherited from the previous UPA regime.
But as Khare failed to get a response from the finance ministry to his RTI application, seeking details of Mallya's loans, he had approached the CIC.
The term "information" under the RTI Act means any record which is held by or under the control of a public authority.
Khare was initially told by the ministry that the information on Mallya's loans could not be given because of the exemption clauses in the RTI Act related to personal safety and prejudicial effect on the economic interest of the State.
"The respondent (the finance ministry official) further stated that the said information was not available with the ministry. He stated that the information sought by the appellant might be available with the banks concerned or Reserve Bank of India," the chief information commissioner noted.
He directed the ministry to transfer the application to the public authority that held the information.