As reported by Aditi Tandon of Tribune News Service
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Govt-funded NGOs covered under RTI Act: Info panel Chandigarh, January 9
Tribune News Service
In a landmark order, the Haryana Information Commission has held that all NGOs, substantially funded, directly or indirectly by the appropriate government, fall under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
Even if such institutions have been set up by a registered society, they are covered under the definition of “public authority” as explained in Section 2 (h) (d) of the Act and are obliged to give information.
The order came on a complaint petition filed by Vinita Sood, a lecturer of MDSD Girls College, Ambala City, against the college principal, who took a plea that the college needn’t give information as it was not covered under the RTI Act.
Disposing the complaint, Haryana information commissioner Meenaxi Anand Chaudhry directed Kiran Angra, public information officer-cum-college principal, to “provide complete information to appellant and submit a compliance report to the commission by January 20”.
Sood, in her application, filed in August 2007, had sought information regarding an inquiry held against her between May 4 and May 26 and the status of follow up action on the report. Denying information, the authorities asserted that being a private institution established by a registered society, the college was not covered under RTI Act.
The college denied information irrespective of the fact that the higher education commissioner, Haryana, had in April directed all non-government colleges to appoint public information officers and first appellate authorities as per the Act.
The respondent argued that the college didn’t fall within the meaning of public authority as defined by Section 2 (h) (d) (ii) of the Act as it had not been “established or constituted by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government”.
Section 2 sub-clause “d” defines public authority as an institution set up by notification issued or order made by the government and includes (i) a body owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government and (ii) NGO substantially financed directly or indirectly by government. The respondents said they didn’t fall in category (ii) as this category needed to be read in inclusion of sub-clause “d” which says public authority should have been established by a government order.
The commission has, however, set aside this argument and clarified that the NGOs substantially funded by the government directly or indirectly fell under the Act.
“The context in which the expression ‘includes’ has been used in Section 2 (h) (d) shows that this inclusive definition is exhaustive in meaning. The legislature has sought to bring all NGOs which are recipients of substantial funding from the state government under the definition of public authority even when they are not established or constituted by a notification or order,” rules the commission.