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Saturday, June 6, 2009

RTI applies to JNMF, say 3 commissioners

RTI applies to JNMF, say 3 commissioners
Abhinav Garg | TNN 

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Jun 4, 2009; Section: Times City; Page: 9

New Delhi: Going against the legal opinion rendered by their chief, three information commissioners of CIC have declared Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund (JNMF) a public authority under the RTI Act. 
    ‘‘In the interest of justice, transparency and accountability, the Commission declares the JNMF to be a public authority under the RTI Act,’’ observed a bench of IC’s Annapurna Dixit, M M Ansari and Satyananda Mishra on Tuesday, giving the trust 15 days’ time to put in place a mechanism to receive and dispose of RTI pleas. 
    The CIC’s stand is contrary to that adopted by chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who in a separate legal opinion sent to the Trust in 2007, had concluded that it was not a public authority so the RTI Act wasn’t applicable to it. 
    The case stemmed from an RTI filed by B R Manhas, a senior citizen in JNMF in November 2006. Manhas’s plea was a modest one, asking ‘‘year-wise financial grant given by HRD ministry and its purpose.’’ 
    JNMF shot off a letter to CIC wanting to know if ‘‘charitable trusts set up in memory of national leaders come within RTI Act’’. Habibullah replied the RTI Act didn’t apply to the fund so it wasn’t bound by it. 
    But it was Manhas’s argument that was upheld by CIC in its latest ruling — since the trust received government funds and was housed within government property — Teen Murti House — it was accountable to the public. 
    Infact, Manhas had taken the battle to the Delhi HC alleging ‘‘judicial indiscipline’’ on behalf of Habibullah because he first gave an opinion on his RTI plea, then was also a part of CIC bench that heard his appeal against JNMF’s refusal to disclose information. 
    HC had then asked Habibullah to ‘‘consider the appropriateness of his participation’’ in hearing the appeal, suggesting the CIC convene a three commissioner bench to reconsider the case. 
    Now, apart from appointing a PIO, the trust will also have to furnish the information asked by Manhas in the RTI. 

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