Non-Government 0rganisations (NGOs) that are “substantially financed, directly or indirectly”, by government funds will fall within the ambit of “public authority” under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.
This would mean that these NGOs will have to maintain records as provided under the Act, and every citizen will have the right to get information from them.
The judgment came from a bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose while rejecting claims by some colleges and schools which contended that they are not public authority under the Act. The court said the institutions concerned were substantially financed and are public authority within the meaning of the Act.
The bench said RTI Act was “enacted with the purpose of bringing transparency in public dealings and probity in public life. If NGOs or other bodies get substantial finance from the government we find no reason why any citizen cannot ask for information to find out whether his/her money which has been given to an NGO is being used for the requisite purpose.”
On what constitutes “substantial” financing, the bench said “in our view, ‘substantial’ means a large portion. It does not necessarily have to mean a major portion or more than 50 per cent”.
The judgment said, “Substantial financing can be both direct or indirect. To give an example, if a land in a city is given free of cost or on heavy discount to hospitals, educational institutions or such other body, this in itself could also be substantial financing. The very establishment of such an institution, if it is dependent on the largesse of the State in getting the land at a cheap price, would mean that it is substantially financed.”
The bench, however, said “whether an NGO or body is substantially financed by the government is a question of fact which has to be determined on facts of each case”.
The appeal was filed by DAV College Trust and Management Society, New Delhi; DAV College, Chandigarh; MCM DAV College, Chandigarh; and DAV Senior Secondary School, Chandigarh.