Is the Bank of Maharashtra Employees Welfare Trust a Public Authority?
The appellant sought information in relation to the Bank of Maharashtra Employees Welfare Trust like Copy of the constitution of the trust, list of the places where the holiday homes for staff members are provided, the copies of agreement between the bank and the Holiday home owners, the procedure followed while selection of particular property for Holiday Homes, names of selection committee members, total payment made to each Holiday Homes for the financial year and 2010-2011 etc. The Public Information Officer (PIO) denied the information stating that the registered Trust was is a separate legal entity registered with the Charity Commissioner, Pune and was managed by independent Board of Trustee who has the entire management and control of the Trust fund. The appellant argued that the Trust receives a sum of Rs. 8 to 10 crores (approximately) from the respondent-public authority/Bank and that the Executive Director of the Bank is the ex-officio head of the Trust and other members of the Trust are employees of the Bank.
View of CIC
The Central Information Commission (CIC) noted that the Bank had provided substantial funds to the tune of Rs. 8 to 10 crores to the Trust since 1999. Further, a contribution or grant of Rs. 50.80 crores given by the Bank from its corpus of public funds cannot be considered as insignificant. This means that the Trust is being ‘substantially financed’ indirectly by Government funds.
The Commission also noted that the registered office of the Trust is same as the head office of the Bank and the board of trustees consists of nine bank officials and the Chairman of the Trust is the Executive Director of the Bank. The Commission held that it be assumed that such officials must necessarily be acting on behalf of the Bank and that the Bank officers exercise a significant degree of control on the decisions of the Trust. Based on the reasons described above, the Commission ruled that the Bank of Maharashtra Employees Welfare Trust is controlled and substantially financed by the appropriate Government and is a public authority under Section 2(h) “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted (a) by or under the Constitution; (b) by any other law made by Parliament; (c) by any other law made by State Legislature; (d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any- (i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) non-Government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government; of the RTI Act.
The Commission directed the Chairman of the Bank of Maharashtra Employees Welfare Trust to appoint a PIO and a First Appellate Authority as mandated under the RTI Act. The Commission also directed that the appointed PIO should provide the complete information as per records to the appellant as per the provisions of the RTI Act.
Citation: Mr. Prakash Ranade v. Bank of Maharashtra, Planning Department in Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2011/003688/17641
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/262
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission