The Supreme Court of India on 15 October 2013 ruled that co-operative societies do not fall within the ambit of Right to Information (RTI).
While ruling the judgment a bench of justice KS Radhakrishnan and justice AK Sikri told that mere supervision or regulation of a body by government would not make that body a public authority.
Observations of the Supreme Court of India
• Societies are of course subject to the control of the statutory authorities like Registrar, Joint Registrar and the Government. But cannot be said that the state exercises any direct or indirect control over the affairs of the society which is deep and all pervasive.
• Supervisory or general regulation under the statute over the co-operative societies, which are body corporate, does not render activities of the body so regulated as subject to such control of the State so as to bring it within the meaning of the State or instrumentality of the State.
• The mere supervision or regulation as such by a statute or otherwise of a body would not make that body a public authority within the meaning of Section 2(h)(d)(i) Right to Information Act. In other words just like a body owned or body substantially financed by the appropriate government, the control of the body by the appropriate government would also be substantial and not merely supervisory or regulatory.
The ruling was given by the Supreme Court of India while quashing a circular by Kerala government.
According to the Kerala government circular to the Registrar of Co-operative Societies in May 2006 all institutions formed by laws made by State Legislature is a public authority and therefore, all co-operative institutions coming under the administrative control of the Registrar of Co-operative Societies are also public authorities.
About Cooperative societies
•Cooperative Societies is a state subject under entry 32 state list of the Seventh schedule of the Indian Constitution.
• According to the Constitutional (97th Amendment) Act, 2011 forming a Cooperative Society is a fundamental right under article 19(1)(i).
• Constitutional (97th Amendment) Act, 2011 added the words “or co-operative societies” after the word “or unions” in Article 19(l)(i) and insertion of article 43B i.e., Promotion of Co-operative Societies and added Part-IXB i.e., The Co-operative Societies.
About right to information act, 2005
It is an act to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority.
According to the Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 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 organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.
iii. Non Government organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government