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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Housing societies too come under info Act

Paul John TNN : Ahmedabad: Co-operative societies and agriculture produce market committees (APMC) in Gujarat, in whichever form they exist, are public authorities under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. This recent decision of the state information commission has caused a flutter in the co-operative sector as it would have wider implications. For instance, if you want to know how your co-operative housing society has been spending your maintenance money or managing the society’s funds, you can ask this under the RTI. The decision also pertains to the cooperative banks, milk co-operatives, APMCs or any organisation formed under existing co-operative laws of Gujarat. For a long time, co-operative societies in the state had been claiming immunity from the RTI Act, quoting a circular issued by registrar of co-operative societies on March 23, 2006, which stated, “co-operative societies and agriculture produce market committees are not included in the definition of public authorities.” This circular was struck down by the state chief information commissioner RN Das recently, after deeming it to be “void” under section 22 of the RTI Act. Das further ordered the registrar of co-operatives to review rule 36 of Gujarat Agricultural Produce Market (GAPM) Rules 1965, which states that “proceedings of market committee shall not be treated as public documents and copies thereof shall not be supplied unless there is a court order.” In respect to rule 36 of GAPM Rules, Das said that since it was a “subordinate legislation” it had no meaning after the RTI Act came into force. The state information commissioner RN Das ordered the registrar of co-operatives and the principal secretary of department of co-operation to bring in amendments in the GAPM Rules to make them consistent with the RTI Act. The amendments, according to Das, should be reported to the commission within three months. The issue came to light after an applicant Dilipsinh Zala demanded information on the recruitment procedures of Class ‘D’ employees and the proceedings of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) of Unjha in Mehsana district. The information was denied to Zala after quoting GAPM rule 36 and the registrar of co-operative’s circular. The information commission has ordered that since the APMC would be maintaining account records and vouchers of salaries paid to the class ‘D’ employees, the same information be provided to Zala within 15 days of the order.
Publication: Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date:2007 Feb 26; Section:Ahmedabad; Page Number 3

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