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Cooperatives under RTI?

by Mukesh Doot 4 year(s) ago

Whether the co-operatives fall under the Right To Information (RTI) Act has become a topic of discussion in India. It is yet unclear whether a citizen may or may not get response to his RTI application from co-operatives. Either the body will not respond at all or it can deny saying it does not fall under RTI’s purview. Experts say that you cannot pull up a co-operative under RTI as on today.

As per Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, any public body or institution established under the Constitution (Article 19) becomes the fundamental right of any citizen and hence comes under the RTI. So do co-operatives. However, it has not proved to be so simple in cases of cooperative societies.

Before understanding whether the RTI is applicable or not in cases of cooperative societies, it is important to understand why many feels that it should be applicable.

Activists say that in some cases, there is a lot of corruption in the functioning of the societies. They are known for siphoning off money or misappropriating funds. It is difficult for members to get information about co-operatives, their accounts, functioning. It is also difficult to know whether these bodies are working right.

So if a member or an investor has the power of the Right To Information (RTI), it becomes easier to get these answers. If he or she is not satisfied or finds any misappropriation of funds, then the co-operative can be dragged to court on the basis of response to the RTI application.

So, is the cooperatives are under the purview of RTI?

There is no clarity regarding this as of now.

In August last year, the Supreme Court stayed Kerala High Court’s judgement holding that cooperative societies in the State would come within the ambit of ‘public authority’ under the Right to Information Act.

In the application filed before the court, the appellant said that “a co-operative society is a conglomeration of people within the territorial limit who join together for economic advancements of themselves by conducting different economic activities. The profit and loss is shared equally by the members of the general body of the society. Needless to say, the activities of the society are confined to its members. Co-operative societies are autonomous bodies and are not creations of a statute. It is clear that the RTI Act is applicable to the functioning of ‘public authorities’ only. It is not meant to cover any and every organisation which has no connection with the public at large.”

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