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Abhay Nevagi & Associates

WHETHER PUBLIC CHARITABLE TRUSTS ARE COVERED UNDER THE RTI ACT 2005?

All establishments are invariably covered under the ambit of the RTI Act, 2005 provided they are covered within the definition of ‘public authority’ as defined u/s 2 (h) of the RTI Act. The relevant section reads as follows:

“”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;

The primary parameter for any Charitable Institutions to be covered under the RTI Act is whether the Organization is substantially financed by the Government. In order to establish the fact that any organization gets substantially financed by the Government, the burden of proof lies entirely on the Applicant.

In this regard, though, the National Information Commission in this regard has held as follows: “‘Charitable purpose’ includes relief of the poor, education, medical relief and advancement of any other object of general public utility.

Needless to say, avowed purpose for which these institutions/entities come into existence is charity. Charity and secrecy are contradiction in terms. Any charitable institution should have no secrets and should be open to public for all purposes, including its finances. In other words, in our opinion, it will be in the larger public interest if the identity of the charitable trusts/institutions/entities which are granted exemption from, income tax under the statutory provisions are placed in the public domain. Hence, in exercise of powers under section 25(5) of the RTI Act we hereby recommend that the identity of the charitable trusts/institutions/entities which have been granted exemption from income tax under section 10 & wider section 11/12 of the Income Tax Act is placed in public domain by way of suo-motu disclosure by the CBDT in terms of section 4(1)(b) r/w. section 4(2) of the RTI Act.”

The same has been reiterated by the Honble Gujarat High court in Rajendra Vasantlal Shah vs. Central Information Commissioner and Ors. (MANU/GJ/1463/2010): AIR 2011 Guj 70.

Therefore, Charitable Institutions, executing any kind of public activity and substantially funded by or receipt of any kind of benefits shall be covered under the ambit of the RTI Act, 2005.

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