Court of Wards managing the property of Bhonsles is covered under the RTI Act
On February 12, 1925, the Court of Wards was constituted by the then Central Provinces and Berar government as caretaker to the property belonging to the Nagpur city's royal family. Thus, 89 years back, the properties of Raje Bahadur Raghuji Rao Bhonsle, Kunwar Fattesingh Rao Bhonsle and Kunwar Jaisingh Rao Bhonsle running into hundreds of acres were brought under its jurisdiction.
In June 2012, TH Naidu filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 seeking information about a particular property, namely the Sonegaon Lake. The Sonegaon lake was under the jurisdiction of the Court of Wards and was auctioned by it in 1974. The Court of Wards claimed that it did not come under the ambit of the RTI Act and declined to provide the information. Despite the order of the First Appellate Authority (FAA) deputy collector Nishikant Sukhe in April 2, 2013 directing the manager of Court of Wards to provide information, the information was not provided on the pretext that Raje Raghujirao Bhonsale and Raje Mudhojirao Bhonsale had denied to provide the information.
The matter came up before the Nagpur Bench of the State Information Commission (SIC) wherein DB Deshpande directed collector Abhishek Krishna to provide information within 45 days. The SIC ruled that the information sought by applicant is in public interest. The order further reads “Property related to which applicant sought information comes under collector's jurisdiction. Government is payable of taxes related to this property. Therefore, RTI Act 2005 is permissible for Court of Wards.”
Activists have pointed to controversies over the issue of No Objection Certificate (NOC) issued by the Court of Wards in the past and have demanded that the same be brought before the public. Instances of similar nature of other Boards / Trusts indulging in sale of property belonging to them have been reported from time to time. Perhaps, this order shows a possible manner of dealing with such instances. Transparency can bring about a change in the working of the organisations such as these.