SC: NGOs, pvt bodies getting govt funds fall within RTI Act Voluntary bodies laud court verdict
‘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
However, some organisations feel that the definition of ‘substantial funding’ must be strictly applied to only the component of funds received from the government for a project
“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.
Full report on www.toi.in New Delhi: Several organisations on Tuesday welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling that NGOs with substantial government funding are liable to disclose information under the RTI Act, calling it a significant step towards defining accountability of nongovernmental organisations and private bodies.
The Supreme Court order defining clearly what “substantial funding” by the government implies is expected to give a strong impetus to implementation of RTI with regard to NGOs. However, some organisations feel that the definition of “substantial funding” must be strictly applied to only the component of funds received from the government for a project.
Amod Kanth, founder of voluntary organisation Prayas and member-coordinator of Niti Aayog’s panel on civil society, said accountability of an organisation for a goverment-funded project is a must under RTI. “However, it is also important to ensure that the projects of organisation, which are not government-funded are not brought under RTI scrutiny,” he said.
Co-convenor of National Campaign for Peoples Right to Information, Anjali Bhardwaj, welcomed the judgement as one that will play a significant role in ensuring compliance with the RTI Act. “The SC order defines very clearly ... that substantial funding cannot be interpreted as majority funding. It is further explained that not just direct but even indirect funding like land given to an organisation for setting up an institution also comes under the purview of the RTI,” Bharadwaj said.
She said on many occasions, organisation used to go to courts refusing to reply to RTI on their interpretation of “substantial funding”.
Now, the apex court order has set the record straight, she further added.
ALL FOR ACCOUNTABILITY