RTI cannot unlock all co-operative societies

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A key right-to-information question was resolved when the Karanataka High Court on 30 June 2008, declared that registered Co-operative Societies are not public authorities under the RTI Act, 2005.

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Citing the RTI Act, the High Court said that ‘public authority’ under this act is a body of self-government established by the appropriate (state legislature, central) government. A non-governmental organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government is also a ‘public authority’.

Furthermore, the court noted that while the Co-operative Societies Act and the Karnataka LokAyuktha Act both defined office-bearers of co-operative societies to be ‘public servants’, this did not amount to these bodies termed as a ‘public authorities’ under the RTI law.

The issue came up in September 2005, when a co-operative society filed a petition asking if it was a public authority under the RTI Act. That month, the Registrar of the Co-operative Societies (Karnataka) had notified that all co-operative societies in Karnataka were public authorities. Some members of Dattaprasad Co-operating Housing Society, Malleshwaram wanted to know information about the society and some others opposed divulging the information. The chairman of the society took the case further. The respondents for the case were the Registrar of Co-operative Societies and the Karnataka Information Commission.

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Editorial team consists of Shree DN, Subramaniam Vincent and Meera K.