4 August 2020


Judgments

Central Information Commission

K. Kashinathan v. The Director, Institute of Rural Management

MANU/CI/0125/2017

09.03.2017

Right to Information

Burden to show that a body is owned, controlled or substantially financed by appropriate Government is on applicant seeking information

Complainant filed an application under Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) on 7th April 2014 with CPIO, Institute of Rural Management (IRMA), seeking information regarding Written Test (Online) on 'Issues of Social Concern'. CPIO vide letter provided para wise information to complainant. Not satisfied with response of CPIO, complainant filed a complaint before Commission. Complainant was not present despite notice. Respondent submitted that, present proceedings arise from complaint of complainant. Respondent submitted that basic issue to be adjudicated in present matter is whether IRMA is a Public Authority as per Section 2(h) of RTI Act, 2005.

As per Supreme Court's decision in case of Thalappalam Service Cooperative Bank Limited v. State of Kerala, burden to show that a body is owned, controlled or substantially financed by the appropriate Government is on the applicant who seeks information. Therefore, onus is on complainant in present case to assert that IRMA is owned, controlled or substantially financed by appropriate Government.

IRMA was established by Society as an educational institution for imparting education in the field of Rural Management. Society has its Memorandum of Association and Rules for its internal functioning, which reveals that the Board of Governors of the Society is not at all dominated by public sector as sought to be suggested by the complainant. Merely because a representative each from Central Government, State Government and the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) is nominated to Board of Governors of the Society which has a total strength of 17 members, it cannot be said that there is an over-dominance of public sector in Board of Governors of the Society. Further, representation of Central Government and State Government on Board of Governors of Society in form of a representative each is there as Society opted for it by a making a provision for the same in its Rules. Thus, it is not on account of any right vested in either the Central or State Government. Similarly, representation of co-operative sector is confined to only 3 members in the 17-member Board of Governors of the Society. Thus, 3 members on the Board of Governors of the Society falling in the category of co-operative sector in generic term are representing a particular group of the members of the Society. Besides this, in definition of the term 'Public Authority' under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, there is nothing to indicate that presence of co-operative sector in setup of any body is of any consequence for holding such body as Public Authority there under. Supreme Court in case of Thalappalam has held that merely because a body is registered as a co-operative society under the relevant statute, such body would not ipso facto become the Public Authority under the RTI Act. Thus, when a body which falls under the category of co-operative sector is not per se a Public Authority for purpose of the RTI Act, it is indeed not possible to appreciate as to how the presence of such co-operative sector in the setup of another body would render such body as Public Authority.

As per definition of the term "Public Authority" under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, a body has to be controlled by either the Central Government or the State Government in order to be declared as Public Authority thereunder. However, representation of aforesaid nature from the Central Government and State Government in the Board of Governors of the Society does not convey that the Society and IRMA are controlled by either Central Government or State Government or both. Also, control referred to by Section 2(h) of the RTI Act has to be deep and pervasive control. Therefore, mere presence of a representative each from Central Government and the State Government on 17-member Board of Governors of Society on account of the same having been voluntarily opted by the Society in its Rules cannot imply any control by either Central Government or State Government.

Supreme Court in Thalappalam case held that funding cannot be termed substantial unless records show that the funding was so substantial to the body that it practically runs from that funding and would struggle to exist without the said funding. However, in present case, grants received by IRMA from Governmental agencies are for specific purposes. Also, income from initial corpus received from NDDB is excluded from income-expenditure statement of IRMA as the same has to be utilized for the purposes stated in Note on Item No. 14 on the agenda of the 40th Board meeting of NDDB. These purposes include providing IRMA's services to NDDB free of cost, except operation cost such as those of boarding, lodging, materials and supplies. Further, IRMA does not charge any tuition fee from the managers/officers sponsored by NDDB for attending IRMA's Post Graduate Programme in Rural Management. The respondent further submitted that IRMA can survive without these grants because at present it charges lesser fees from students as compared to the fees charged by similarly placed counterpart institutes of management and the fees could be raised in order to fill any deficit that arises. Hence, there is no funding of substantial nature by the appropriate Government to IRMA and accordingly, the parameter of substantial funding is also not satisfied.

As per the Hon'ble Supreme Court's Decision in case of Thalappalam, onus is on complainant to establish that IRMA is either owned, controlled or substantially financed by appropriate Government in order to satisfy Section 2(h)(d)(i) of the RTI Act. However, onus was not discharged conclusively by complainant. In view of this, Commission is of the opinion that it would not be judicious to adjudicate upon the issue relating to declaration of IRMA as a Public Authority. Complaint is disposed of.

Relevant

Thalappalam Service Cooperative Bank Limited v. State of Kerala

Tags : Information Public Authority Determination

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