|Name of the Case||D.A.V. College Trust and Management Society v. Director of Public Instructions|
|Citation||(2019) 9 SCC 185: 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1210|
|Court||Supreme Court of India|
|Date of Decision||September 17, 2019|
|Appellant||D.A.V. College Trust and Management Society & Ors.|
|Respondent||Director of Public Instructions & Ors.|
|Bench||Division Bench: Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose|
|Acts Involved||Right to Information Act, 2005|
|Important Section||Section 2(h) of Right to Information Act, 2005|
The Right to Information Act, 2005 was brought in India for promoting transparency and accountability in the working of public authorities. As section 3 of the act provides right to information to every citizen of India, as well as Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution provides right to know to the citizens. Hence the people can seek information of any public authority as defined under section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005. The case study deals with civil appeals filed by school/colleges regarding the interpretation and the ambit of the word ‘public authority’.
It is necessary for a citizen to have faith in its government and for that to happen, transparency and accountability plays key role between them. A nation’s worth is not vested in the government; it lies in the compatibility between its citizen and the government. Right to Information is one of such way by which a citizen can seek knowledge of how the government is working. The act allows a person to seek information from public authority. But does the word ‘public authority’ include Non-Governmental Organization? The question is answered in the case of D.A.V. College Trust and Management Society v. Director of Public Instructions which clarifies the ambiguity relating to the words ‘include’ and ‘means’ and enlarges the scope of the terms.
As well as the case has depicted the actual mean of being substantially financed by government and determined the meaning of the word ‘public authority’. The case is all about the applicability of RTI act, 2005. Right to Information Act, 2005 provides right to citizen to seek information from any public authority, the case very well explained the ambit of the public authority. The case was presented before the division bench including Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose and was decided on 17th September, 2019.
Background of the Case
The present case is a civil appeal which was filed by school/colleges in Supreme Court of India. The respondent in the case had initiated proceeding under the Right to Information Act, 2005 whereas the appellant contended that they do not fall under the definition of ‘public authority’ under section 2(h). The appeal is filed for determination of non-governmental organisations substantially financed by appropriate government fall within ambit of public authority. However the court has disposed off the appeal and concluded that NGO are also a part of public authority if they are financed by the government. There is no any hard and fast rule to determine the meaning of word ‘substantial’, as it mean a large portion and does not necessarily mean a major portion or more than 50%. For future consideration the court observed that for deciding substantial finance, one has to keep in mind the provisions of the act.
In present case, the Civil Appeal No. 9828 of 2013 includes three appeals Civil Appeal Nos. 98449845 of 2013, Civil Appeal Nos. 98469857 of 2013 and Civil Appeal No. 9860 of 2013, which is filed by D.A.V. College Trust and Management Society, New Delhi; D.A.V. College, Chandigarh; M.C.M.D.A.V. College, Chandigarh and D.A.V. Senior Secondary School, Chandigarh. These appellants are all colleges and organization running schools and colleges, having their own identity claimed that the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) do not come under the purview of Right to Information Act, 2005. As according to them the Act covers only Government and its instrumentalities which are accountable to the Government as ‘public authority’.
It has been urged that these colleges/ schools are not substantially being financed by government as they do not receive finance more than 50% from government. The documents filed by the school/colleges depicts that they are not receiving finance more than 50%. As M.C.M.D.A.V. College, Chandigarh, in the years 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-07, has received grants in excess of 1.5 crores each year which constituted about 44% of the expenditure of the College. As far as D.A.V. College, Chandigarh is concerned the grant for these three years ranged from more than 3.6 crores to 4.5 crores and in percentage terms it is more than 40% of the total financial outlay for each year. Similar is the situation with D.A.V. Senior Secondary School, Chandigarh, where the contribution of the State is more than 44%.
Issue for consideration in the case is whether non-governmental organisations substantially financed by the appropriate government fall within the ambit of ‘public authority’ Under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Section 2(h) of Right to Information Act, 2005: “….“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 organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government;”
- Thalappalam Service Cooperative Bank Ltd. and Ors. v. State of Kerala and Ors. [(2013) 16 SCC 82]
- P. Kasilingam and others v. P.S.G. College of Technology and others. [1995 Supp (2) SCC 348]
- Bharat Co-Operative Bank (Mumbai) Ltd. v. Co-Operative Bank Employees Union [(2007) 4 SCC 685]
- Delhi Development Authority v. Bhola Nath Sharma (Dead) by L.Rs. and Ors. [(2011) 2 SCC 54]
- New India Assurance Company Ltd. v. Nusli Neville Wadia and Anr.
- Abhiram Singh and Ors. v. C.D. Commachen (Dead) by L.Rs. and Ors. [(2017) 2 SCC 629]
- Gough v. Gough [1891 2 QB 665 (CA) ]
- Punjab Land Development and Reclamation Corporation Ltd. v. Presiding Officer, Labour Court [(1990) 3 SCC 682]
- Dilworth v. Commissioner of Stamps (Lord Watson) [1899 AC 99 (PC)]
- Mahalakshmi Oil Mills v. State of A.P. [(1989) 1 SCC 164]
The Supreme Court observed that an NGO/Institution/Society not owned or controlled by government, not being created by an act or notification, would still cover under the ambit of “public authority” if it is substantially financed directly or indirectly by the government. In the appeal Civil Appeal No. 9828 of 2013, Supreme Court found that as the total expenditure of each institution is under the range of 40%-45% which is about Rs 1.5 to 4.5 crores annually per institution and 95% of expenditure of teaching staff financed by government and are substantial payments.
The bench said that, “If NGOs or other bodies get substantial finance from the Government, we find no reason why any citizen cannot ask for information to find out whether his/her money which has been given to an NGO or any other body is being used for the requisite purpose or not.”….. “Section 2(h) of Act deals with six different categories and the two additional categories are mentioned in sub Clauses (i) and (ii). Any other interpretation would make Clauses (i) and (ii) totally redundant because then an NGO could never be covered. By specifically bringing NGOs it was obvious that the intention of the Parliament was to include these two categories mentioned in sub Clauses (i) and (ii) in addition to the four categories mentioned in Clauses (a) to (d). Therefore, NGO substantially financed, directly or indirectly, by funds provided by the appropriate government would be a public authority amenable to the provisions of the Act”.
The bench cited the case P. Kasilingam and others v. P.S.G. College of Technology and others and observed that, “It is thus clear that the word ‘means’ indicates that the definition is exhaustive and complete. It is a hard and fast definition and no other meaning can be given to it. On the other hand, the word ‘includes’ enlarges the scope of the expression. The word ‘includes’ is used to signify that beyond the meaning given in the definition clause, other matters may be included keeping in view the nature of the language and object of the provision. In P. Kasilingam’s case (supra) the words ‘means and includes’ has been used but in the present case the word ‘means’ has been used in the first part of Sub-section (h) of Section 2 whereas the word ‘includes’ has been used in the second part of the said Section. They have not been used together.”
The court dismissed the Civil Appeal No. 9828 of 2013 and Civil Appeal Nos. 9844-9845 of 2013, 9846-9857 of 2013 and 9860 of 2013 are remitted to the High Court for determination whether the institutions are substantially financed or not. The High Court shall treat the writ petitions to be filed in the year 2013 and give them priority accordingly.
The court has relied upon the purposive construction of section 2(h) of RTI Act, 2005 as it is not inartistically worded and it is the duty of court to find out true meaning and interpret in such a manner that it would serve the purpose of act. Court observed that the language of the provision is clear; therefore the court cannot give its own interpretation. In the definition of ‘public authority’ under RTI Act, 2005 the Court said “…‘substantial’ means a large portion. It does not necessarily have to mean a major portion or more than 50%. No hard and fast rule can be laid down in this regard”. In view of this case the highlighted concept was related to the ambit of public authority, as it was held that substantially financed non-governmental organization by government are included under the ambit of ‘public authority’.
- Legislation Referred:
- Constitution of India
- Right to Information Act, 2005