In a significant order intended to inject transparency and accountability in functioning of NGOs and other private institutions receiving substantial government funds, Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that such bodies fall in the ambit of right to information law, making them liable under the RTI Act.
“This Act (RTI) was enacted with the purpose of bringing transparency in public dealings and probity in public life. If NGOs or other bodies get substantial finance from 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,” a bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said.
The bench held that there cannot be a “hard and fast rule” to decide if funds provided by government agencies amount to be being called substantial to bring them under the RTI Act. It said substantial funding does not mean a major portion or more than 50% of the budget of the bodies concerned.
Voluntary bodies welcome apex court’s verdict
Several organisations on Tuesday welcomed the SC’s ruling that NGOs with substantial government funding are liable to disclose information under the RTI Act, calling it a significant step towards defining accountability of non-governmental organisations and private bodies.
However, some organisations feel that the definition of “substantial funding” must be strictly applied to only the component of funds received from the government for a project. Founder of voluntary organisation, Prayas, and member coordinator of Niti Aayog’s committee on civil society organisations Amod Kanth said, “It is also important to ensure that the projects of organisation, which are not governmentfunded are not brought under RTI scrutiny,” he said.