Indian Red Cross Society (J&K Branch) is a Public Authority under RTI Act
The State Information Commission of Jammu and Kashmir has ruled that Indian Red Cross Society J&K Branch is a Public Authority in terms of Section 2 (f) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2009. A double bench comprising Chief Information Commissioner Ghulam Rasool Sofi and State Information Commissioner Nazir Ahmed directed the J&K Branch of Indian Red Cross Society to designate PIOs/APIOs and First Appellate Authority for their offices at Srinagar and Jammu within 30 days.
The matter came up before the State Information Commission (SIC) when an application filed under Section 6 of the State RTI Act before the Indian Red Cross Society, J&K Branch, Srinagar was rejected by its Honorary General Secretary claiming that they do not fall within the purview of RTI Act of the State. The SIC recommended for constitution of a larger Bench which was approved by the Chief Information Commissioner in accordance with State Right to Information Rules, 2010.
The Commission noted that the building of Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) Kashmir Branch has been constructed out of Government funds and the Secretary of the Society is appointed and nominated by the Government. The Commission held that the Red Cross Society Kashmir Branch is covered under an Act ‘XV of 1920 as amended by Act 22 of 1956 and the adaptation of Laws (4) order 1957’. Further, the President and Vice-President of Red Cross Society State Branch respectively are Governor of Jammu and Kashmir State and Chief Minister of the State.
The issue whether Central Indian Red Cross Society falls under the ambit of Central RTI Act, 2005 has been decided in affirmative by the Central Information Commission vide their order dated 31-08-2008 passed in Sunil Yadav v. Indian Red Cross Society. It was also noted by the Central Information Commission in the above order that National HQ of IRCS is covered under (Central) RTI Act, 2005 and the IRCS NHQ has its own PIO under the RTI Act and all state branches are expected to be also similarly covered.
The dispute about the status of an organisation even years after the implementation of the RTI Act is indicative of the sorry state of affairs.