By Divyanshi Singh Choudhary ~ Symbiosis Law School, Hydrabad
- CITATION: CIVIL APPEAL NO. 9828 OF 2013
- COURT: SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
- BENCH: J. DEEPAK GUPTA AND J. ANIRUDDHA BOSE
- DATE OF JUDGEMENT: 17th SEPTEMBER, 2019
- PETITIONER: D.A.V COLLEGE TRUST AND MANAGING SOCIETY AND ORS.
- RESPONDENT: DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTIONS
Facts of the Case
The case at hand is a civil petition brought before the Supreme Court of India by schools and colleges. In that case, the respondent commenced proceedings according to the Right to Information Act, 2005; while the appellant argued that they did not fall under the meaning of ‘public authority’ in accordance with section 2(h). The appeal is filed for the determination of significantly funded non-governmental organizations by a reasonable government within the framework of public authority.
In the instant case, D.A.V. College, Sector 10, Chandigarh, M.C.M.D.A.V. College, Sector 36, Chandigarh, and D.A.V. Senior Secondary School, Sector 8, Chandigarh are various colleges. These establishments have been set up by society and are evidently seeking financial help from the Union Territory, Chandigarh, to the amount of 95 percent. It was asserted that 95 percent of the grant-in-aid was previously lowered to 45 percent. The appellant complained that the Director of Public Instructions, U.T. Chandigarh, had initiated proceedings under the Act against the appellant, whereas they are not covered by the term ‘public authority’ as used in Section 2(h)(d) of the Act. Correspondingly, the other trust-managed organizations too were tasked with making numerous different institutions public. Documentation on the annual fee structure of the divergent classes / educational programs/diplomas/scholarship programs/add-on courses offered and also asked for more information on advertising/notices issued by D. A. V. College, Sector 10, and Chandigarh for the 2007-08 sessions concerning college admissions. However, the appellants have taken the position that their institution is not covered by the Act, as it is not a ‘public authority.’
Issues of the Instant Case
The paramount issue claimed here was whether, under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, NGOs substantially funded by the government fall within the scope of ‘public authority.’ In contrast, the Supreme Court had to determine whether the appellants were massively supported by the state in this case.
Arguments of the Parties
The appellants opined that, as per the beginning section of the clause, public authorities could be deemed solely to be the authorities, bodies, or institutions particularly worried about self-governance. The purpose of the act, thereupon, was to cover only the government and its tools, not NGOs such as universities and schools.
Furthermore, it was alleged that if any person or organization falling beyond the jurisdiction of clauses (a) to (c) (those established under the Constitution or the Parliament or the Government of the State) were to be brought within the framework of public authority, it would have to be explicitly informed of the status mentioned in clause (d). Besides, the government did not significantly fund the schools and/or colleges, as provided by Section 2(h) of the Legislation.
On the other hand, it is advocated on behalf of the respondents that the reading of Section 2(h) expressly illustrates that there is, in addition to the four categories alluded to in the first part, an inclusive portion comprising I the entity owned, regulated or significantly funded; (ii) the non-governmental organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly, by funds given by the responsible Government.
The court made reference to the previous case of P. Kasilingam v. P.S.G. College of Technology & Ors, which is an interpretative clause dealt with the meaning of the phrase “means and includes.” The use of the word ‘means’ suggests a challenging and easy interpretation of the definition and that no other meaning can be obtained from it, but it implies that a wider and more progressive interpretation of the definition can be inferred when paired with the word ‘includes.’ The Court analyses the usage in Section 2(h) of the Act of the word ‘means’ which suggested ‘exhaustive and full’ meanings of the first four classes of public authorities, using the term ‘includes’ in the second part of the provision which indicated that the legislature wished to define more narrowly the last two groups of government authorities.
The Court, therefore, reasoned that in sub-paragraphs I and (ii) identifying entities and NGOs owned, regulated, or predominantly funded by the Government, various types of public authorities must be constituted.
Responding to the question of whether cooperative societies will fall within the framework of that statute, it referred to the case of Thalappalam Service Cooperative Bank Ltd. and Ors. V. St. of Ors and Kerala. It was ascertained that the institutions and non-governmental organizations specified in sub-clauses I and (ii) above constituted different categories of public authorities, in addition to the four previous categories referred to in section 2(h) of the Legislation.
Finally, the Supreme Court argued that the company should obtain a large amount of finance to come within the category of ‘substantially supported’ and it provides no more than 50 percent. In the case of Appellant No.1, it was found that even though government funding accounted for 45 percent of the total funding, it still financed almost 95 percent of the teaching staff’s salary, which is a critical element of the educational institution and forms the foundation for its functioning.
It was therefore determined that these colleges/schools are largely funded and are a public authority within the purview of section 2(h) of the Act. Nevertheless, the court ruled, like the other appellants, that the High Court did not take into account whether or not they were substantially supported and instead instructed them to ascertain the same.
Right to Information Act, 2005:
Public authorities are required under the RTI Act, 2005, to make disclosures about various aspects of their structure and functioning.
The roles are:
- Disclaimer about their company, mechanisms, and composition
- The powers and commitments of its officers and staff
- Information on financial affairs.
The primary intent of such suo-moto revelations is that to achieve such data, the public should need the lowest recourse through the legislation. In the nonexistence of such relevant data, citizens have the right to demand it from the officials. This may include necessary data under the power of the Public Authority in the form of a document, files, or electronic records. The commencement of the law aims to motivate openness and transparency in the functioning of public authorities.
Exploring the ambit of the term ‘Public Authorities’:
‘Public authorities’ encompass self-government bodies established under the Constitution or formal notice by any law or government. These include ministries, public sector enterprises, and regulators, for example.
It also covers all entities which are owned, controlled, or significantly funded, and non-governmental organizations that are markedly funded directly or indirectly by the government’s financing.
Interpretation of the phrase Substantial Financing:
In the RTI Act, the term ‘Substantially financed’ is not defined. The normal rule is to find the definition of the term in a similar statute or legislation and apply the same when a term is not interpreted in a statute. The meaning of the term substantially funded is presented in section 14(1) of the CAG Act-1971.
The bench stated that “ dealing with the “considerable financing” element does not necessarily have to mean a major portion or more than 50 percent, and in this regard no hard and fast rule can be laid down. There can be either direct or indirect sizable financing. To give a specific example, if land in a city is given to hospitals, educational institutions, or other bodies free of cost or at a heavy discount, this could also be significant funding in itself.
The very development of such an institution would mean that it is significantly sponsored if it depends on the largesse of the State to obtain the land at a cheap price. By stressing the need to concentrate on the larger objective of percolating the benefits of the statute to the masses, the court resorted to a ‘purposeful’ interpretation of the provisions.
Should political parties deem fit to be declared as ‘Public Authorities’ under the current legislation, the Right to Information Act, 2005?
ARGUMENTS THAT ARE AGAINST THE IDEA OF BRINGING POLITICAL PARTIES UNDER THE ACT:
The constitution or act of parliament did not establish political parties and should therefore not be under the RTI. They are formed under the People’s Representation Act, which is not the same as that produced by parliament. Political parties are particularly worried that the release of information under the RTI Act may give their competitors an edge. The political parties do not want to reveal both their internal work and their system of decision-making. In the Income Tax Act, 1961, and the Representation of the People Act, 1951, there are already provisions that enable necessary transparency regarding the financial aspects of political parties. These frameworks enhance transparency in the parties’ financial dealings. On the website of the Election Commission, data about a political body is already in the public domain.
ARGUMENTS THAT FAVOUR THE IDEA OF BRINGING POLITICAL PARTIES UNDER THE ACT:
All administrative support matters, with the exception of political strategy, need to be publicly disclosed because political parties are public institutions and receive public money. In India, it is widely accepted that political funding is the fountainhead of corruption. In prime areas of New Delhi and their respective capital cities, almost all political parties have very worthwhile plots allocated by the government.
Therefore, internal democracy, financial transparency, and accountability in the functioning of political parties need to be introduced. Voter financial assets do not enhance accountability in political financing, since donors remain publicly anonymous. In fact, it is necessary to make public not only funding but also spending made by political parties, particularly mostly during the time of elections.
All political parties must affirm their allegiance to the Constitution of India pursuant to Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and such allegiance is made compulsory for the purpose of registration pursuant to Subsection (7) of Section 29A. Consequently, political parties so registered must provide information to the public according to the right of information provided for in Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution.
As the right to information is considered to be part of the freedom of speech and expression provided for in Article 19(1) (a). Political parties have been under the RTI Act because they have not disputed the judgment of 3 June 2013 of the Central Information Commission (Political parties are public authorities under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act); even though they have not yet agreed with the order. The Law Commission of India strongly advised fairness in the structure and function of political parties in its 170th report on the ‘Reform of Electoral Laws’ in May 1999. A very structured act is the RTI act. In the legislation, there is section 8(1) which has ten exclusions. If a political party is within the scope of the RTI Act, this section will protect them from revealing all kinds of data.
Conclusory Remarks: Author’s Point of View
To sum up, all the contentions raised, a citizen needs to have faith in his government, and to do so, openness and transparency play a key role among them. The value of a nation is not vested in the government; it lies in the compatibility between its citizens and the government. The right to information is one of how a citizen can seek knowledge of how the state functions.
Furthermore, Minority educational systems have a considerable role to play in order to Contentment for the country and the state’s minorities as well. It is also crucial for religious and linguistic minorities to know that these are the only minorities that ought to be a distinctive defence against the majority. These religious and ethnic minorities should keep their beliefs and heritage in mind. Special privileges, such as their independent state, fair fee structure, government and private guidance, commitment to their party. To assist the country in the service of women and girls, as well as those who are not mentally and physically fit, because minorities should not be vigilant about establishing the assisted nature of institutions despite the additional regulations and fewer constraints, but go and support these poorer parts of society.
In addition to, for modern democratic governments to work, political parties are indispensable. The importance of political parties lies in the fact that without the existence of political parties, democracy cannot operate. It makes it possible to work with the parliamentary government. A parliament consists of the people’s representatives. The Law Commission takes the view that the cornerstone of our entire political framework is political parties.
 P. Kasilingam v. P.S.G. College of Technology & Ors., (1995) Supp 2 SCC 348.
 Thalappalam Service Cooperative Bank Ltd. and Ors. V. St. of Ors and Kerala, 2013(16) SCC 82.