Supreme Court: Holding that non­governmental organisations substantially financed by the appropriate government fall within the ambit of ‘public authority’ under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, the bench of Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose has held,

“If NGOs or other bodies get substantial finance from the 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 or not.”

Noticing that the RTI Act was enacted with the purpose of bringing transparency in public dealings and probity in public life, the Court said that while interpreting the provisions of the RTI Act and while deciding what is substantial finance one has to keep in mind the provisions of the Act.

On the issue relating to what constitutes ‘substantial finance’, the Court said ‘substantial’ means a large portion. It does not necessarily have to mean a major portion or more than 50%.  No hard and fast rule can be laid down in this regard.  Whether an NGO or body is substantially financed by the government is a question of fact which has to be determined on the facts of each case. There may be cases where the finance is more than 50% but still may not be called substantially financed.

“Supposing a small NGO which has a total capital of Rs.10,000/­ gets a grant of Rs.5,000/­ from the Government, though this grant may be 50%, it cannot be termed to be substantial contribution. On the other hand, if a body or an NGO gets hundreds of crores of rupees as grant but that amount is less than 50%, the same can still be termed to be substantially financed. “

Another aspect for determining substantial finance is whether the body, authority or NGO can carry on its activities effectively without getting finance from the Government. If its functioning is dependent on the finances of the Government then there can be no manner of doubt that it has to be termed as substantially financed.

[DAV College Trust and Management Society v. Director of Public Instructors, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1210, decided on 17.09.2019]

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