Meant To Serve Public At Large, GSTN’s Pathetic State Of Affairs Draws CIC’s Rebuke [Read Order]
GSTN told to suo motu disclose info u/s 4 RTI Act
Taking note of the “alarming and pathetic state of affairs at the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN)”, the company set up primarily to provide IT infrastructure and services to the Centre, states and taxpayers for efficient implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the Central Information Commission was appalled to see that many important aspects of GSTN required streamlining and that it had made only sketchy disclosure about its procedures, norms etc as mandated under Section 4 of the RTI Act.
Information Commissioner Bimal Julka directed GSTN to suo motu disclose information about itself while emphasizing the need to attend to some important and critical areas of GSTN “forthwith in the larger public interest”.
The CIC was hearing an appeal filed by RTI activist RK Jain who had sought to know about the policies, procedures etc., of GSTN.
While he tried to fetch some details of it from its website, he was surprised to see that only sketchy information had been uploaded by the company.
He also came across certain startling facts which he placed before the CIC during the hearing.
Jain told the CIC that GSTN was a private limited company registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act and that the HR policy had not been finalised, the detailed norms, including delegation of powers, for discharge of GSTN functions was under preparation, the rules/regulations and manual etc. to be used by its employees for discharging their functions was also under preparation, the annual statement of accounts and balance sheet was available till the period 2013-14 only and that it was reflected that on completion of manual, rules and regulations, recruitment etc., an arrangement shall be put in place with the consultation of all the stakeholders of the company, including tax payers. Admitting the formative stages of the construction and formulation, GSTN submitted before the CIC that they were making best of their efforts to streamline their processes and procedures to put in place a robust, scientific and state of art network for the benefit of the users.
During the hearing, the commission was apprised that the CPIO, who had provided the initial information, had since quit the service and that a total number of approximately 1200 employees were in the company managing the entire network.
It was articulated by GSTN that it had observed the provisions of Section 4 of the RTI Act, 2005 and those necessary disclosures were made on their website but the CIC noted that it was not.
GSTN was incorporated on March 28, 2013. The Government of India holds 24.5% equity in GSTN and all states of the Indian Union, including NCT of Delhi and Puducherry, and the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers (EC), together hold another 24.5%. Balance 51% equity is with non-government financial institutions.
“…keeping in view the supervisory powers of the Commission u/s 25(4) of the RTI Act, 2005, the Commission advises the Respondent to suo motu disclose the information sought by the Complainant in compliance with Section-4 of the RTI Act, 2005 to ensure transparency, objectivity and accountability in the functioning of the Public Authority,” the CIC ordered.
“Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties, it is evident that a sketchy information as available on its website had been furnished by the Respondent. However, it is appalling to learn that an important, significant and critical area concerning the implementation of GST Network still required streamlining and consolidation which needs to be attended to forthwith in the larger public interest,” it said.Read the Order Here