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SC: NGOs and private bodies getting government funds fall within RTI Act

September 18, 2019 06:47 AM


SC: NGOs and private bodies getting government funds fall within RTI Act
‘Act Enacted To Bring Transparency’

New Delhi:

In a significant order intended to inject transparency and accountability in functioning of NGOs and other private institutions receiving substantial government funds, Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that such bodies fall in the ambit of right to information law, making them liable under the RTI Act.

“This Act (RTI) 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 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 or any other body is being used for the requisite purpose,” a bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said.

The bench held that there cannot be a “hard and fast rule” to decide if funds provided by government agencies amount to be being called substantial to bring them under the RTI Act. It said substantial funding does not mean a major portion or more than 50% of the budget of the bodies concerned.

“Another aspect for determining substantial funding is whether the body, authority or NGO can carry on its activities effectively without getting money from the government. If its functioning is dependent on finances of the government, there can be no doubt that it has to be termed as substantially financed,” said Justice Gupta, who wrote the judgement.

The court noted that very establishment of an institution, if dependent on largesse of the state, would mean substantially financed. “Merely because financial contribution of the state comes down during actual funding, will not by itself mean indirect finance given is not to be taken into consideration”. The verdict came on a batch of petitions filed by NGOs including DAV College Trust and Management Society against decision of high court to declare them as public authority. The organisations contended they cannot be made amenable to RTI law as they have not been set up by government authorities and work independently.

The court, however, rejected their plea and noted DAV society gets crores of funds annually from government agencies which cover almost half the expenditure of their colleges and schools and more than 95% of the expenditure as far as the teaching and other staff are concerned

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