CAN YOU SEEK INFORMATION FROM NGO’s UNDER RTI?

A repository of doubts, confusions and apprehensions arise when people from NGO approach us seeking donations and other monetary assistance in the name of social work.

  • What do they do with money?

  • Do they actually spend money on needy or on themselves?

  • Are they really social workers?

  • How would I know what kind of social work they do?

  • Is there any way I can track them?

  • Can I seek information under RTI about this NGO?

The Supreme Court answered the query in an affirmative. Yes! NGO’s which are aided/financed by the Government do come under the umbrella of Right to Information.

The question as to whether Non-Governmental Organizations substantially financed by government come under the definition of “public authority” for the purposes of procuring information under the Right to Information Act, 2005 came to be considered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of D.A.V. College Trust Management Society and others v. Director of Public Instructions and others (AIR 2019 SC 4411).

The brief controversy involved in the aforesaid case related to the issue that whether schools/colleges which are not substantially financed by the Government would fall under the ambit of “public authority” for the purposes of exercising right to information. The Hon’ble Supreme Court while addressing the issue observed as follows:

In our view, ‘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. Substantial financing can be both direct and indirect. TO give an example, if a land in a city if given free of cost or on heavy discount to hospitals, educational institutions or such other body, this in itself could be substantial financing. The very establishment of such an institution, if it is dependent on largesse of State in getting the land at a cheap price, would mean that it is substantially financed. Merely because financial contribution of the State comes down during actual funding, will not by itself mean that the indirect finance given is not to be taken into consideration. The value of the land will have to be evaluated not only on the date of allotment but even on the date when the question arises as to whether the said body or NGO is substantially financed.”

The court further observed that for the purpose of comprehending the meaning of the term substantial finance one has to keep in mind the objective of the Right to Information Act, 2005. This Act of 2005 was enacted with a purpose of bringing transparency in public dealings and probity in public life. The Hon’ble Apex Court laid down that those NGO’s and other bodies which receive financial assistance from the Government are well within the scope and ambit of RTI for procuring desired information. It is the right of every citizen to 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 requisite purpose or not.

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