RTI Act applies on NGOs substantially financed by Government
In a land mark judgment, the Supreme Court of India has ruled that any private organization, including a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), which is substantially funded by the Government, is within the ambit of Public Authority as defined under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
A bench of Justice K S Radhakrishnan and Justice A K Sikri observed that although the “Government may not have any statutory control over the NGOs, as such, still it can be established that a particular NGO has been substantially financed directly or indirectly by the funds provided by the appropriate government, in such an event, that organisation will fall within the scope of Section 2(h)(d)(ii) of the RTI Act (definition of public authority).”
As per the explanation given by the bench, although the term NGO has not been defined under the act but with the given nature of the task performed by them, ‘which are otherwise governmental’ in nature, especially with the given fact of them being substantially financed by the Govt. the expression has evolved its own meaning, which inspite of these organisations (along with private organisations) being outside the statutory purview of the Government has made them fall within the definition of Public Authority. The bench held that merely providing subsidiaries, grants, exemptions, privileges etc., as such, cannot be said to be providing funding to a substantial extent, unless the record shows that the funding was so substantial to the body which practically runs by such funding and but for such funding, it would struggle to exist. Whether an NGO has been substantially financed or not by the appropriate government, is a question of fact, to be examined by the authorities concerned under the RTI Act.
The bench held that the burden to show that a body is owned, controlled or substantially financed or that a non-government organization is substantially financed directly or indirectly by the funds provided by the appropriate Government is on the applicant who seeks information.
For the full text of the order, please click - http://www.rtifoundationofindia.com/circular/ThalappalamSerCoopBankLtd&Ors-v-StateofKerala&Ors-SCI-Oct13.pdf