Staff entitled to information on defunct company, says CIC

Jet Airways employees gathering to make a peaceful appeal at Town Hall in Bengaluru on Monday.   | Photo Credit: G.R.N. Somashekar

As Jet Airways’ employees protest their delayed salaries and demand financial support from lenders to revive the airline, the Central Information Commission has delivered a ruling in favour of the employees of another beleaguered aviation company which may empower the former.

In August 2016, India’s first private ground-handling company Cambata Aviation stopped operations, leaving around 2,700 employees in the lurch with pending salaries and unpaid benefits. Later, allegations of tax fraud and financial irregularities reportedly brought the company under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate.

Aggrieved employee

Long-time Cambata employee Subramanian K. Ansari had filed an RTI request demanding financial and regulatory information about the company from the Income Tax department, but was denied on the grounds that it was personal information. On appeal, the I-T Department had asked Cambata permission to release the information, but was promptly denied.

Last week, the CIC ruled that the information must be released, keeping in mind the larger public interest of not just Cambata employees, but those of Jet Airways and the defunct Kingfisher Airlines as well.

In his ruling last Thursday, Central Information Commissioner Bimal Julka ruled that the exemption given to “personal information” under the RTI Act referred to an individual human being and not a corporate entity. He added that the details sought were in the larger public interest of the company’s employees.

“The issue of non-payment of salary/ wages and other statutory dues to employees was certainly a grave matter which could not be brushed aside especially taking into consideration the turmoil and hardships faced by similar employees of Companies such as Kingfisher Airlines and recently Jet Airways, which were once considered as behemoths of the Civil Aviation Sector/ Industry in the wake of the losses incurred by such companies,” said the ruling.

The RTI applicant had alleged that Cambata had wilfully defaulted in payment of statutory dues of Provident Fund, medical and life insurance and other employee benefits, apart from depriving workers of their salaries, resulting in extreme financial hardship. It had also not issued Form 16 to employees from 2014-15, he said.

“The Commission cannot be a mute spectator to the pitiable conditions being faced by the employees,” said Mr. Julka’s ruling.

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 5:53:34 AM |

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