HC: Aided private educational institutions are under the ambit of the RTI Act
An application was filed with the Thiagarajar College of Engineering in Madurai under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking to get information on the fee structure of certain courses. The reply to the application from the registrar of the college stated that information could not be provided as the college was a private entity rather than a public authority thus falling outside the ambit of the RTI Act.
The applicant then approached the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission (SIC) following which the SIC ordered the college authorities to furnish the demanded information.
Instead of furnishing the information, the college filed a writ petition with the Madras High Court challenging the SIC order contending that the commission didn't give sufficient chance to the college for presenting its case. It also argued that as the college received only 37% of total expenditure as aid from the State government for payment of salary to teaching and non-teaching staff, it cannot be assumed to be a public authority. However, the High Court referred to 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 and held that if the government provides any concession or grants substantial aid, whether full or partial, the aided private educational institute is deemed to be a public authority and thus falls under the purview of the transparency act.