New Delhi: Government employees’ cooperative society Kendriya Bhandar will now be answerable under the Right to Information Act as the Central Information Commission has declared it to be a public authority under the law.
The Commission said the Central Government holds 81.30 per cent of the paid up capital as per the accounts of the Ministry of Public Grievance and Pension submitted by it to Parliament for the year 2008-09.
“This implies that the Central Government is a majority shareholder of Kendriya Bhandar. Also, holding of majority equity shares implies that the Central Government is the owner of Kendriya Bhandar,” Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava said in his order.
He said to corroborate, recourse can be made to Section 617 of the Companies Act, 1956 which states that where 51 per cent or more paid up capital is held by the Central Government or the State Government, such company shall be a government company.
Kendriya Bhandar, which was approached by several RTI applicants including activist R K Jain on wide range of topics, had claimed that it does not come under the ambit of the transparency law.
It cited a Supreme Court judgement in Thalappalam Ser Cooperative Bank Ltd versus State of Kerala and others to seek exemption from the RTI Act.
“The said case will not be applicable to the present matter as the Supreme Court has restricted itself to the cases of cooperative societies registered or deemed to be registered under the Cooperative Societies Act which are not owned, controlled or substantially financed by the State or Central Government or formed or Constituted by law made by the Parliament or State Legislature,” the complainants argued.
Rejecting the arguments of Kendriya Bhandar, Bhargava said the Commission, is of the view that since the Central Government is a majority shareholder up to the extent of owning 81.60 per cent of paid up capital is the owner of Kendriya Bhandar or in other words Kendriya Bhandar is owned by the Central Government within the meaning of Section 2(h)(d)(i) of the RTI Act.
“The Commission also observes that in order for an authority to be declared as ‘Public Authority’ so as to be amenable under the RTI Act it has to qualify the test of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act,” he said.
The website of Kendriya Bhandar says it was set up in 1963 in pursuance of Union Cabinet decision as a welfare project for the benefit of Central Government employees and public at large.
“It is functioning under aegis of Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Government of India and was registered with Delhi Registrar of Cooperative Societies.
Subsequently, it was registered with Central Registrar of Cooperative Societies, Govt of India as a Multi State Consumer Cooperative Society in September, 2000,” it says.