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Cooperative Societies Are Bound by RTI Act, Says Bombay HC order

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Notwithstanding the myriad opinions and interpretations of several court judgments on whether cooperative societies come under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, a recent landmark judgment of the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court reiterates that urban cooperative banks, cooperative financial institutions and other cooperative societies are bound by the Act.
The Association of Jalgaon Zilla Urban Cooperative Banks, Credit Societies and other financial institutions registered under the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act 1960, appealed in a petition to the High Court that cooperative institutions cannot be treated as public authority under the RTI Act.
They contended, “In view of the provisions of Section 2(h) and Section 8 of the Right to Information Act 2005, cooperative institutions registered under the Cooperative Societies Act cannot be treated as public authority.”
They also argued that under banking rules too certain information cannot be disclosed. Their contention was that in view of the provision of section 34A of the Banking 3 WP 1304 of 2008 Regulation Act, 1949, these institutions are not bound to disclose certain information which, according to them, is confidential in nature.
The petitioners also argued that “these institutions are not receiving financial aid from the Government, directly or indirectly, and so the provisions of the Act cannot be made applicable to them”.
The petitioners, in their prayer, urged the court to declare cooperative societies and others as “not public authorities” under the RTI Act. Following was their submission:
  • The urban cooperative banks, cooperative financial institutions, Patpedhis (credit cooperative societies) and other cooperative societies, which are registered under the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act 1960, are not public authorities within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act.
  • These institutions stand exempted from disclosure of information u/s 8)1 (d), (e) and (j) of the Right to Information Act
  • That the court issue a writ, order or direction restraining the officers of the cooperative department from supplying any information to the members or general public which is, according to the said societies, confidential in nature.
  • The court, pending the hearing and final decision of the writ petition, restrain the respondent from disclosing any information other than the balance sheet and profit and loss accounts of the cooperative societies, urban banks and Patpedhis to the general public under Right to Information Act.
In its order issued on 13 February 2017, the court observed that cooperative institutions, are registered under the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act, 1960 and that cooperative societies and other such institutions are created by a statute; that they have a public authority over them which is the final decision-making body.
Certain Articles of the Constitution also show that such institutions are discharging the duty of the State and there is an ‘authority’ over them, which is the final decision-making body and the co-operatives are bound to supply information (all of which comes under Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act), to this authority. Hence, cooperative societies and other such institutions are bound to supply information under the RTI Act, the HC said.
The High Court observed:
  • Cooperative institutions are bodies created by the statute. But right from the registration till the liquidation there is control over these institutions by the authority created under the same Act. The authority steps in to take decisions on the rights of the members. The authority has control over the manner in which funds are invested or over the distribution of the funds. Such institutions cannot act independently and the apex bodies are created for such institutions.
  • Even Articles 38,39,43 and 48 of the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution show that to some extent such institutions are discharging the duty of the State
  • The provisions of the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act show that the authority under the Act can do the audit and inquire into irregularities. If loss is caused to the institution, by the directors, promoters etc., the authority can assess the damage, and the loss caused to the institution can be recovered from those persons. Under the Act, the authority can suspend the managing committee and remove its members. For all these and other purposes mentioned in the Cooperative Societies Act, the cooperative institution is bound to supply the record to the authority.
  • The provisions of the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act, if read with the definition of information given in Section 2(f) of the Act, makes it clear that everything which is mentioned in the definition of information needs to be supplied by the cooperative institution to the authority created under the Cooperative Societies Act. The definition of ‘Public Authority’ given in Section 2(h) shows that such public authority can be created by any law made by the State Legislature. It is already observed that the officers like Registrar and his subordinate officers are appointed under the Cooperative Societies Act.
The High Court therefore concluded that, “…the reliefs claimed in the present petition cannot be granted as the reliefs can be used 14 WP 1304 of 2008 directly or indirectly by the cooperative institutions to deny the supply of the information… This Court holds that no relief which is claimed in the present petition can be given to the petitioner.”
RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, who has been pursuing this issue for long, says, “After the Supreme Court’s order in Thalappalam Services Cooperfative Bank Ltd. against State of Kerala, public authorities and public information officers (PIOs) said the RTI act was not applicable to cooperative societies. Actually even in the Thalappalam case, the apex court, in paragraph 52 of its judgment, had categorically stated that the PIO of Registrar of Cooperative Societies is duty bound to supply the information. But even then PIOs and cooperative societies were denying the information sought under RTI.”
Below is a copy of the order passed by Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court…
 Click Here for the full order
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(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005, and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book, “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart – Ashok Kamte”, with Vinita Kamte, and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
http://www.moneylife.in/article/cooperative-societies-are-bound-by-rti-act-says-bombay-hc-order/49794.html

FREE RTI Book by Shailesh Gandhi ex-CIC

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Visit www.satyamevajayate.info and download the most authentic book on #RTI FREE. Participate in the competition with a first prize of Rs. 25000. Anyone with knowledge of English and who can think logically can participate.


Section 4 Directions Issued by Shailesh Gandhi

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Directions issued by Mr. Shailesh Gandhi, Central Information Commissioner with regard to Section 4 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI)

https://www.scribd.com/document/324095692/2-Section-4-Direction-Issued-by-SG

Very useful for RTI Users and Activists


DIY guide to RTI

RTI logo - GavelHere is the link to a Handy Do It Yourself (DIY) guide to RTI. You have various formats, including RTI in local languages, Standard RTI and appeal forms, rules, GRs, Guidelines, Articles by Shailesh Gandhi and other resources.

Must read for RTI activists and great help for the common man who wants RTI to improve Society and his own administration

Click Here for the great resources, painstakingly compiled and owned by G R Vora


Resume DD TV SHOW – JANNE KA HAQ on RTI Act Now

Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley : Resume DD TV SHOW – JANNE KA HAQ on RTI Act Now

Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley : Resume DD TV SHOW - JANNE KA HAQ on RTI Act Now

Why this is important
The DD program JANNE KA HAQ is the only Television program in India, India,- or perhaps in the world,- which is working for over nine years on RTI and transparency related issues from January 2006. I

t has been taking up various issues relating to Right to Information every weekend. Despite it being a DD program, it had consistently championed the cause of transparency. Its popularity was high specially in rural areas and small towns.It highlighted RTI successes and failures and was one of the important contributors to the empowerment of citizens in the direction of converting our nation into a participatory democracy.

Most institutions of power have been uncomfortable with RTI since the most powerless individual gains the power to challenge arbitrariness, wrong doing and corrupt actions.
This challenges the arrogance and ego even of those who may be honest, apart from threatening the corrupt.
This unique Janne Ka Haq program which has played an important role in spreading RTI in the nation has suddenly been stopped since two weeks RESUME NOW !!

Click Here to sign the petition

Shailesh Gandhi on RTI

My talk of about 50 minutes on RTI, Information Commissions, Judiciary and governance of December 2012 – Shailesh Gandhi