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Thread: NGOs liable to answer RTI queries

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    NGOs liable to answer RTI queries


    By KPM Basheer in The Hindu - Online

    The Hindu : Kerala / Kochi News : NGOs liable to answer RTI queries


    NGOs liable to answer RTI queries


    Even partial State aid makes them accountable to the public
    SIC says when an NGO is given aid for specific projects, RTI applies to only that project
    NGOs should designate information officers to answer public queries


    KOCHI: Non-Government organisations (NGO) receiving government grants or aid for specific projects come under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and are required to provide information to the public under the Act. They also need to designate information officers to answer the public’s queries, the State Information Commission (SIC) has ruled.

    In a recent precedent-setting order, the SIC held that any NGO receiving government aid — even if the aid is for a specific project— was liable to provide information sought by the members of the public.

    The order, issued by the State Chief Information Commissioner and all the three State Information Commissioners, was on a petition against two NGOs who had refused to provide information on their spending of the government aid sought by S. Krishna Kumar of Vellanad.

    The NGOs, Mithranikethan and The Dale View, argued that since they had received government aid only for specific projects they were not liable to provide information to the public.

    The commission shot down the argument and ordered them to provide the information sought by the person and also to designate assistant public information officer, public information officer and appellate authority to deal with the public request for information.

    Inalienable right


    “The Commission found that access to information regarding public money cannot be denied to the members of the public under any circumstances,” the commissioners stated in the order.

    “The public have an inalienable right to know how the government money is spent and whether it is spent for the purposes for which it is provided and, if it is spent, also, the manner in which it is meant to be spent. Since these institutions have been receiving public funds and since they both have been working as implementing agencies of the government’s schemes and programmes, although for specific projects, they have to be deemed to be Public Authorities under section 2 (h) (ii) RTI Act to that extent.”

    ‘Public authority’


    According to section 2 (h) (ii), ‘Public Authority’ means any authority or body or institution of self-government including “non-government organisation substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government.”

    However, State Chief Information Commissioner Palat Mohandas clarified that when an NGO is given aid for specific projects, the RTI applies to only that project. Many NGOs get funding from variety of sources, including from overseas.

    The NGO could be deemed a public authority to the extent of government funding or to the specific project for which funding is provided.

    Aided colleges


    Aided colleges, run by the Christian Church and other community organisations, also come under the definition of ‘public authority’ and are hence required to provide information to the public.

    Aided colleges receive hundreds of crores of State government money every year. However, an earlier order issued by the commission on the application of RTI to aided private colleges has been challenged in the High Court.

    A single judge’s verdict that upheld the commission’s stand has now been challenged before a larger Bench.



  2. #2
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    Re: NGOs liable to answer RTI queries


    As reported by Aditi Tandon of Tribune News Service

    Publication | Indian Publication News | Indian Publication Aggregator | Regional Publication News | Leading Publications India

    Govt-funded NGOs covered under RTI Act: Info panel
    Aditi Tandon
    Tribune News Service
    Chandigarh, January 9

    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.

  3. #3
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    Re: NGOs liable to answer RTI queries


    The CIC has recently ruled that a particular NGO which received 20% as "Grant in Aid", from the Government, is not covered under the RTI Act.

    Full decision is attached.
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by karira; 21-01-08 at 10:58 PM.

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