Government-funded NGOs come under RTI ambit, says SC

Context – The Supreme Court held in a judgment that Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) “substantially” financed by the government fall within the ambit of the Right to Information Act.

Scope of the judgement. NGOs which receive considerable finances from the government or are essentially dependent on the government fall under the category of “public authority” defined in Section 2(h) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005.

What is a public authority?

The RTI Act defines “public authorities” in Section 2(h) – A “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self- government established or constituted –

  1. by or under the Constitution;
  2. by any other law made by Parliament;
  3. by any other law made by State Legislature;
  4. by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any –
  5. body owned, controlled or substantially financed;
  6. Non-Government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.

An NGO may also include societies which are neither owned nor controlled by the government, but if they are significantly funded by the government, directly or indirectly, they come under the RTI Act. Substantial proportion need not necessarily be 50% and above government funding but could be assets like government land, heavy discounts to hospitals etc.

Impact –They have to disclose vital information, ranging from finances to hierarchy to decisions to functioning, to citizens who apply under RTI.