Chandigarh, June 25:CAN an NGO, Army Wives Welfare Organisation (AWWA), have an office adjacent to the office of GOC-in-C Western Command in the high security zone of Western Command Headquarter? Can serving officers be attached or employed with AWWA? These and some other questions were asked under the RTI Act from the Western Command authorities but the latter refused to entertain the query. It replied, “AWWA, being an NGO and a welfare organisation, does not fall within the purview of the RTI Act.”
Guneet Chaudhary, lawyer, vide an application to Public Information Officer (PIO) Western Command sought information regarding the Army’s association with AWWA, an NGO constituted with the aim of welfare of wives and children of Army officers and jawans as well as rehabilitation of war widows.
The applicant, while seeking information, relied upon the report of Comptroller and Auditor General of India which pointed out an unauthorised expenditure of Rs 75 crore by spouses of Air force and Army chiefs who are presidents of AWWA and AFWWA. The report also indicted the Army for irregularities in hiring of light vehicles and their misuse for AWWA.
Chaudhary specifically sought information regarding the legal status of AWWA, source of funding, serving officers/other ranks deployed on AWWA duties, provisions under which AWWA is using Army building/infrastructure in top security zones, details of rent, if any, paid by AWWA to the Army, details of welfare activities undertaken by AWWA, details of amount spent on travelling and other facilities provided to AWWA president Western Command, AWWA’s annual audited balance sheets, list of war widows who have been given grants by AWWA, etc.
Surprisingly, the PIO, through letter dated June 18, 2007, told the applicant that since AWWA is a welfare organisation and an NGO, it is not a public authority and also not within the purview of the RTI Act. However, the definition of Public Authority as provided under Section 2h(d) of the RTI Act includes an NGO substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the government. Since AWWA got the initial corpus from the Ministry of Defence and is funded from different heads like canteen profits and various grants of the Ministry of Defence earmarked for the welfare of defence personnel, it’s very much a Public Authority under the RTI Act.
As per the applicant, the reply forwarded by the Public Information Officer amounts to deliberate denial of information and as such makes the officer liable for penal action under the RTI Act. Chaudhary is now planning to approach the appellant authority in the matter. He said, “The Army has a negative attitude towards complying with the provisions of the RTI Act 2005. The PIO appointed at various Army locations are naïve.”
RTI: Army fails to respond to application seeking information on AWWA status
Chandigarh, July 09:After not getting a response to his Right to Information application filed with the ADG-PIO, Army Headquarters, South Block, New Delhi, on May 28, 2007, regarding the functioning of the AWWA, Supreme Court advocate Guneet Chaudhary has now appealed to the appellate authority in the matter.
Many thanks Ganpat for this.
Actually. Like smnislam, I also feel that AWWA should be a PA as defined in the RTI Act.
Once the two appeals, reach the CIC, the matter will be clarified once and for all.
I think I have replied this issue many times at various forums. AWWA cannot escape from the ambit of theRTI Act. Though the wife of Army commander is its President, it is run by serving Army Officers and government staff. This is akin to the PM's relief Fund. I was surprised to see that this issue is not settled tillnow.
not only awwa but also other NGO like womens organisations of wifes of govt. officials which operate from govt. land and buildings and use official resourses/facilities should also be brought within the purview of the RTI act
Army deserts its wives' welfare club
by Ajay Sura 21 Nov 2008, Times of India
CHANDIGARH: Caught in an RTI poser that sought information on the funding of Army Wives' Welfare Association (AWWA), the Army in a shocking reply to the Central Information Commission (CIC) has instead disowned it.
Offices of AWWA are scattered across Army cantonments in India and its headquarters is in South Block, Delhi like the Army headquarters. It is, on the face of it, a registered society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
Giving a new twist to the ongoing debate over functioning and funding of AWWA, the Army has in a five-page reply, filed on behalf of the chief of staff, Western Command, said it has nothing to do with funds for the association either.
The reply, a copy of which is with TOI, is to be submitted before the CIC next Monday (November 24). It comes over a year after the Army declined to provide information on where money for AWWA came from, taking recourse in the plea that as the body was not funded by the government it did not fall under the RTI purview.
In fact, the Army has gone on to plead with Major (retd) Guneet Chaudhary to withdraw the petition since "he too has donned the Olive Green and he is well aware of the yeoman's service done by AWWA for jawans. We leave it to his wisdom and discretion whether he should continue to insist on or persist with the issue which was closer to his heart at one point of time and in any case is a non-issue when it comes to questioning it. He may seek to withdraw his appeal and put a full stop on the issue''.
In the RTI application, Chaudhary had sought information from Western Command about the legal status of AWWA, source of funding, organizational structure, number of officers and other ranks attached with it, reason for giving office space in the high security zones of western command headquarters, grants given to widows and orphaned children of Army in the last five years and the AWWA president using Army aircraft and Army vehicles.
"As regards funding, we reiterate with all emphasis that Western Command (or Army) does not fund AWWA in any manner,'' states the reply even as documents procured by TOI on Wednesday revealed that AWWA was funded by a total of 18 HQ brigades in 2004 and by 16 HQ brigades and divisions in 2007.
Record reveals that all AWWA offices are run with the financial assistance from various units. Even the officer in-charge of the schools run by AWWA are serving Army officers of the rank of Lt. Col. An interestingly point: If the Army doesn't pump in money for AWWA, it's a miracle who runs the sprawling network as there is no subscription fee for membership.
Moreover, all vehicles used by AWWA in their day-to-day functioning belong to the Army and the wives' association even finds a mention in the Army's official website. The matter will be finally heard by the commission on November 24.