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The Court ruled that a “trade facilitation organization” is a public authority that must abide by the RTI Act because it (a) receives financial support from the government, and (b) is subject to some administrative control, including that it is audited by a government department, reports to the central government through a department, and receives department assignments.
The applicant alleged sexual harassment against two officials of the Electronic and Computer Software Export Promotion Council (ESC). When she requested information about the committee that was established to investigate the allegation, ESC argued it did not need to release the information because it was not a “public authority” for purposes of the RTI Act because it had autonomy to make its own rules and its employees were not government employees.
First the Central Information Commission, then the High Court, disagreed. An organization is a “public authority” if it discharges public functions and meets financial and administrative criteria. The High Court relied on the fact that ESC receives over half of its budget from the central government. Significant administrative factors included the fact that ESC is audited by a government department, reported to the central government through a department, and received department assignments. This “public authority” nature was not negated by the ESC’s autonomy in framing its rules governing the service conditions of its employees or by the fact that ESC employees are not considered government servants. The Court held that a “trade facilitation organization” is a “public authority” because of (a) financial support and (b) administrative control, and therefore must abide by the RTI Act.
Judgment of the Court.
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