A district cooperative society contended that cooperative societies are not receiving financial aid from the Government directly or indirectly and so the provisions of the RTI Act cannot be made applicable to them. In spite of the provisions in existence, the authorities created under the Cooperative Societies Act are insisting the institutions to pass on information in respect of the conduct of business and other things of the societies to the members or even general public under the provisions of the RTI Act. They sought a writ of mandamus restraining the officers of the cooperative department and/or their subordinates from supplying any information to the members or general public, which, according to the said societies was confidential in the commercial interests of the said societies and for that purpose issue necessary orders.

The Court in this case observed that the petitioners and its members, the cooperative institutions, are registered under the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act, 1960 and are bodies created under statute and right from the registration till the liquidation there is control over these institutions of the authority created under the same Act and the authority steps in to take decision on the rights of the members. Therefore, such institutions cannot act independently and the apex bodies are created for such institutions. The Bench highlighted that even Articles 38, 39, 43 and 48 of the Directive Principles of State Policy show that to some extent such institutions are discharging the duty of State.

The Court elucidated further by reading the provisions of the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act with definition of information given in Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, that everything which is mentioned in the definition of information needs to be supplied by the cooperative institution to the authority above it. Further, it stated that the definition of ‘Public Authority’ given in Section 2(h) shows that such public authority can be created by any law made by the State Legislature. Accordingly, the petition was dismissed by the High Court.

Courtesy: Economic Times

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