NGOs ‘Financed’ by Government amenable to RTI Act

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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 or not. “

Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) receiving substantial financing from the government are bound to give information to the public under the RTI Act, the Supreme Court held.

The top court said that institutions like schools, colleges and hospitals which receive substantial aid from the government both directly or indirectly in the form of land at discounted rate are also bound to give information to the citizens under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

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 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 or not”.

“We have no hesitation in holding that an NGO substantially financed, directly or indirectly, by funds provided by the appropriate government would be a public authority amenable to the provisions of the Act,” it said.

“While giving a purposive interpretation, a court is required to place itself in the chair of the legislature or author of the statute”, it said and added that the provision should be construed in such a manner to ensure that the object of the Act is fulfilled.

“Obviously, if the language of the Act is clear then the language has to be followed, and the court cannot give its own interpretation. However, if the language admits of two meanings then the court can refer to the Objects and Reasons, and find out the true meaning of the provisions as intended by the authors of the enactment,” it said.

Clarifying the legal position, the bench said that a society which may not be owned or controlled by the government, may be an NGO but if it is substantially financed directly or indirectly by the government it would fall within the ambit of the provisions of the RTI Act.

 “The value of the land will have to be evaluated not only on the date of allotment but even on the date when the question arises as to whether the said body or NGO is substantially financed”.

The top court held that DAV College Trust and Management Society, New Delhi, which had filed the case, is the Society which runs various colleges/schools that receives substantial financing from the government and therefore is a public authority within the meaning of the RTI Act.

Source : Livelaw.com