24 Jun 2010

Indian Railway Welfare Organisation covered under RTI: High Court

In a recent decision the Delhi High Court has declared that 'Indian Railway Welfare Organisation' is a public authority and thus covered within the ambit of the Right to Information Act, 2005. The Organisation had argued that it was "a society registered under the Societies Registration Act of 1860" with its principal objective being "to promote and provide dwelling units all over India to serving and retired railway personnel and their widows on a no profit no loss basis" and since it received "no grant from the Railway Board or the Central Government", it was not a public authority.

The High Court, dismissing the writ petition filed by the Organisation against the order of the Central Information Commission, inter alia observed as under;
14. As regards the control of IRWO, this Court finds that the key posts in the IRWO are held by officials of the Railway Board although in an ex officio capacity. It is not denied that the Chairman of the Railway Board is the patron of the Indian Railways and the Member(Staff), Railway Board is the Chairman of IRWO in ex officio capacity; that the Executive Directors of Establishment, Finance and Land Management are all members of the governing body; that the Managing Director of the IRWO is appointed by nomination by the Chairman, Railway Board and the Director (Technical), IRWO is by nomination by the Member (Staff) of Railway Board and is also a member of the governing body. The Director (Finance), IRWO is nominated by the Member (Staff) Railway Board. Four co-opted members are nominated/approved by the Chairman Railway Board. The IRWO Grievance Committee which is a permanent body is chaired by the Adviser, Land & Amenities, Railway Board. The above factors point to the control of the IRWO by the Ministry of Railways.
15. At this juncture it must be observed that the submission that the control has to be 'deep and pervasive' is based on the decisions rendered by the courts in the context of Article 12 of the Constitution. In the first place, the question whether IRWO is “state” is not relevant for answering the question whether it is a public authority for the purposes of the RTI Act. The definition of 'public authority' under Section 2 (1) (h) RTI Act does not talk of 'deep and pervasive' control. It is enough if it is shown that the authority is 'controlled' by the central government. The composition of the Governing Body of IRWO and the manner of appointments of key personnel of the IRWO as noticed hereinbefore bears testimony to the control that the central government through the Ministry of Railways and Railway Board has over IRWO.

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