5 Aug 2010

Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee covered under RTI: High Court

In a recent decision the Delhi High Court has declared that the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee is public authority within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and thus required to provide information sought by the public. 

Senior Advocate Mr. K.T.S. Tulsi, supporting the cause of the Gurudwara Committee had argued as under;
Mr. Tulsi referred to the Preamble, the long title and the various provisions of the RTI Act to impress upon the Court that the general purpose of the RTI Act was to promote transparency and accountability and contain corruption in the government and its instrumentalities. The Preamble further indicated that the expectation was that revelation of information which might lead to conflict with other public interests including “efficient operations of the Government” had to be harmonized “while preserving the paramountcy of the democratic ideal”. It is accordingly submitted that the RTI Act was not intended to apply to institutions like the Petitioner.
The Court however, not being impressed, inter alia observed as under;
12. This Court is unable to accept the submission made by Mr. Tulsi that the words “and includes” is not meant to be read disjunctively and, therefore, although a body may fall within the Section 2(h), (a), (b), (c) and (d) it would nevertheless have to satisfy the requirement of being “directly or indirectly” substantially financed by the appropriate Government. There is no scope for reading the provisions in the manner suggested by Mr. Tulsi.
13. It is plain that Section 2(h)(b) applies in the instant case. The DSG Act is a law made by the Parliament. The DSGMC is a body constituted under Section 3 of the DSG Act. The DSGMC is not a body made under any law but a body made by a law. There is a distinction between the use of the words “by any law made by Parliament” and “by or under the Constitution”. The Parliament has consciously not used the words “by or under” in sub-clause (b) of Section 2(h). In other words, once the body is established or constituted by the law made by Parliament, it would be a "public authority" under Section 2(h)(b). 
14. As regards the words “and includes”, they are disjunctive and indicative of a separate set of entities. The discussion in the recent judgment of this Court in Krishak Bharti Cooperative Ltd. v. Ramesh Chander Bawa 2010 (V) AD (Del) 405 may be usefully referred to. There the question was whether a multi-state co-operative society is a "public authority" within the meaning of Section 2(h)(d)(i) of the RTI Act. It is in that context that in para 13, it was observed:
“13. Before embarking on a more detailed analysis it is necessary to recapitulate the law concerning interpretation of the conjunctive “and includes”. The expression “and includes” connotes that those entities which answer the description following those words need not fall within the definition of entities that precede those words. The word “includes” is generally understood in statutory interpretation as enlarging the meaning of the words or phrases in the body of the statute. In CIT v. Taj Mahal Hotel (1971) 3 SCC 550 the Supreme Court was considering whether the word "plant" in Section 10 (2) of the Income Tax Act 1922, include sanitary pipes and fittings in a building as well? Section 10(5) had defined "plant" to include “vehicles, books, scientific apparatus, surgical equipment purchased for the purpose of business.” The Court held:
"The word “includes” is often used in interpretation clauses in order to enlarge the meaning of the words or phrases occurring in the body of the statute. When it is so used, those words and phrases must be construed as comprehending not only such things as they signify according to their nature and import but also those things which the interpretation clause declares that they shall include."
15. This Court is, therefore, not persuaded to accept the submission made by Mr. Tulsi as regards the interpretation to be placed on the words “and includes”. It is also unable to accept the submission that a body that falls within the definition of public authority under Section 2(h) (a) to (d) must be directly or indirectly substantially financed by funds provided by the appropriate Government. That requirement would only apply to the latter part of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, i.e the bodies falling within the meaning of Section 2 (h) (d) (i) or (ii). Since it is nobody"s case that the Petitioner falls within the ambit of the latter part of Section 2 (h) (d) (i) or (ii) of the RTI Act, that aspect need not be examined any further.

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