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Supreme Court Judgement on NGOs and RTI

Tag: GS- 2|| Governance & Social Justice || Other Aspects of Governance || Good Governance

 Why in News?

  • In the case of the D.A.V. College Trust and Management Society, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment to the Director of Public Instructions. 
  • The NGO decision sheds light on the strength of the undiluted RTI (Right to Information).

Supreme courts Judgement

  • The Court held that, pursuant to Section 2(h) of the RTI Act 2005, NGOs significantly funded by the appropriate government fall within the scope of ‘public authority.’
  • ‘Public authority’ means, under the Act, any self-government authority or body created or appointed by or under the Constitution.
  • ‘ Substantial’ implies, in the opinion, a large portion that may be either direct or indirect.
  • It does not need to be a major portion or more than 50% as no straitjacket equation can be used in this way.
  • For example, if land is given to hospitals / educational institutions / other bodies free of charge or at a  heavily subsidized rate, it may counts as significant funding.

Significance of the judgment

  • The court demanded that the laws be viewed ‘
  • Accordingly, it stressed the need to concentrate on the larger goal of benefiting the people from the law.
  • The ultimate goals of implementing the purposeful principle of interpretation are-
    • Creation of an ‘informed’ citizenry
    • Containment of corruption
    • Holding of government and its instrumentalities accountable to the governed.
  • In addition, the decision may have broader implications for the effect of the RTI law on national political parties.

Why should national parties be brought under RTI Act

  • The central government ‘ substantially ‘ funds the national political parties.
  • The various concessions for them include –
    • Land allocation
    • Accommodation
    • Bungalows in the national and State capitals
    • Tax exemption against income under Section 13A of the Income Tax Act.
    • Free air time on television and radio, etc
  • These can easily fulfill the provision of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act to be referred to as a ‘ public authority. ‘

Earlier developments in this regard

  • ADR
    • The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) submitted a request to all national parties under the RTI in 2010. It sought information about the “10 maximum voluntary contributions” received by them in the past 5 years.
    • None of the national political parties volunteered to make the information available.
    • Accordingly, ADR and RTI advocate Subhash Agarwal submitted a request to the CIC.
  • CIC
    • A full CIC bench released a landmark judgment in 2013.
    • It announced that all national parties were protected by the’ public authorities’ and that they were bound by the RTI Act.
    • Accordingly, within 6 weeks, local public information officers (CPIOs) and appeal authorities are assigned to their headquarters.
    • Notwithstanding the CIC’s legal importance, it was not complied with by any of the six national political parties.
    • Both parties were absent from the hearing when show-cause notices of non-compliance were released by the commission.
  • RTI Act
    • The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill was introduced in Parliament in 2013 and lapsed after the 15th Lok Sabha was dissolved.
    • The purpose of the Bill was to expressly exclude the political parties from the scope of RTI.
  • 2019 PIL
    • In 2019, a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court seeking the declaration of ‘public authority’ by the political parties, and the matter is under judicial consideration.

Mains Model question

  • Recently the ambit of RTI was widened by bringing in NGOs under its purview, Don’t you think bringing Judiciary under the purview of the RTI Act can lead to enhanced public trust in the Judiciary? Critically Analyse.