Schools, colleges and non-profits funded substantially by the government comes will come under the Right to Information Act, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday. Whether the funding is direct or indirect, like land at discounted rate, they are bound to give information to the citizens under the Information Act. Such institutions come under public authority and transparency in public dealings and "probity in public life requires this interpretation", the court said.
A bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said: "If NGOs or other bodies get substantial finance from the government, we find no reason why any citizen cannot ask for information on whether his or her money, which has been given to an NGO or any other body, is being used for the requisite purpose or not".
The judgment came in a case involving the DAV College Trust, which had argued that it does not come under Public Authority and hence, does not attract RTI.
"These can be bodies which may not have been constituted by or under the Constitution, by an Act of Parliament or State Legislature or by a notification," the court said. "(But) Any organisation which is owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government, would be a public authority."
The court held that whether any non-profit or body is substantially financed by the government is a question of fact, which has to be determined separately.
Clarifying what could be considered "substantial financing", the bench said it does not necessarily have to mean a major portion or more than 50 per cent and no hard and fast rule can be laid down in this regard.
"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 court said.
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