Bhadas ब्लाग में पुराना कहा-सुना-लिखा कुछ खोजें.......................


CIC declares Sanawar School a ‘Public Authority’

Whistleblower’s decade long struggle again makes this elite school
accountable to public

Lawrence School, Sanawar, which has been wriggling hard to escape from
the confines of ‘Right to Information Act’ since last decade, has
finally been brought within the ambit of RTI Act by the Central
Information Commission, New Delhi, declaring it a ‘Public Authority’.

The decision came in the wake of directions from Himachal Pradesh High
Court which had in February 2008 stayed the operation of earlier CIC
decision dated  January 25, 2008 wherein this school was declared as a
public authority with further directions to the school headmaster to
provide information requested by the applicant Dr Rajinder K Singla.
It was on September 19, 2016 that the Division Bench of HP High Court
comprising Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh
Chauhan quashed the CIC decision of 2008, reminding the case back to
CIC to decide it afresh.

In December 2016, the CIC has again declared both the Lawrence School
as well as the Society running this school as ‘Public Authority’
further directing them to appoint a PIO and First Appellate Authority
and make all necessary disclosures as mandated by Section 4(1)(b) of
RTI Act, 2005, within a month from the receipt of CIC order. In his
decision, Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu observed that
to decide whether Lawrence School is public authority under Section
2(h)(d)(ii), it is required to be proved that the school is
substantially financed by the Government as per the interpretation of
the expression ‘substantially funded’ in section 2(h). As the entire
land consisting of 127.47 acres with buildings, structures and trees
thereon were considered as military lands and Defence Department
transferred all that to the society, it proves that the Government has
substantially funded the society to run this school by giving land and
buildings.  This fulfils one of the conditions prescribed under
Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, to declare the school as public

The Commission in view of the above holds that the respondent
‘Lawrence School’ and the society running it as Public Authority as
defined in section 2(h)(d)(ii) of RTI Act, as the essential ingredient
of “substantial financing” has been established in the present case.
Also, it is reiterated that even if information held by a respondent
society, assuming that it is not a public authority or a private body,
will be still an ‘information’ as stated in section 2(f) “information
relating to any private body which can be assessed by a public
authority under any other law for the time being in force.” This
information is accessible under law by a public authority. The
Registrar of Societies is the public authority through whom any person
can have access to that information.

While analyzing the issue, the Commission recorded the substantive
points that arose out of the contentions and perusals of records
according to which the land on which the school is located was
purchased by one Mr Lawrence, a British officer, in the year 1947.
When India became independent, there were no claimants to the land,
and the buildings or the school during 1947. According to Article 296
of the Constitution of India, “any property in the territory of India
which, if this constitution had not come into operation, would have
accrued to His Majesty or, as the case may be, to the ruler of an
Indian state by escheat or lapse, or as bona vacantia for want of a
rightful owner, shall, if it is property situate in a state vest in
such state, and shall in any other case, vest in the Union.”

The Commission records: “The fact that learned counsel submitted that
though entire land was with the same society since the beginning, the
Government was benevolent enough not to disturb the functioning of
school and for which it has transferred the entire property to the
same society, shows that legally the land and buildings belonged to
the Government of India, and the Defence Department transferred it to
the society. All this prove that there is a substantial funding to the
society and the school. This shows that the Government has
substantially funded the society to run this school by giving land and

The Commission has gone further to refer to a landmark order of the
Supreme Court in Thaiappalam Ser. Coop. Bank Ltd. & Ors. Vs. State of
Kerala [2013(12) SCALE 527] in which the Apex Court has pronounced
litmus test that if the substantial assistance provided by the state
is withdrawn, body shouldn’t be able to function in which case that
body has to be considered as substantially funded and thus, it has to
be declared as the public authority. If the Defence Department
cancels/withdraws everything, the school cannot function at all.
Hence, on application of this test to the Lawrence School, it can be
declared a public authority under 2(h). It has also been stated that
the school entirely runs on funds by its alumni which clearly shows
that he school is in no position to run on its own.

The Commission also observed: “Moreover, the school is being run by a
society registered under Section 19 of the Societies Registration Act,
1860 which imposed an obligation on society to provide information to
any person. Section 2(f) of RTI provides access to information held by
private bodies through any other legislation providing for RTI. Hence,
under 2(f) of RTI read with section 19 of Societies Registration Act,
1860, the registered society running the Lawrence School has a duty to
provide information.”

Recall that Singla, who was working as Senior Biology Teacher in this
school, had on 28th December 2006 sought from affiliating board CBSE
information relating to this school like school rules, qualifications
of teachers, student fees, members of school management committee etc.
and five days later, i.e. on January 2, 2007, the school has removed
him from service, abruptly, giving him 3 months’ advance salary in
lieu of notice period. Do the facts of this story really speak of
implementation of ‘Right to Information’ in letter and true spirit in
this country which promises its citizenry information within 30 days
by simply filing an application spending a fee of rupees ten only?

HINDI VERSION of the news-story

सीआईसी ने सनावर स्कूल को फिर ठहराया ‘पब्लिक अथॉरिटी’
अधियापक के दशक लंबे संघर्ष से विशिष्ट स्कूल बना जनता के प्रति जवाबदेह

लॉरेंस स्कूल, सनावर जो 'सूचना का अधिकार अधिनियम, 2005' के दायरे से
बचने के लिए पिछले एक दशक से संघर्षरत है, केंद्रीय सूचना आयोग द्वारा एक
बार फिर ‘पब्लिक अथॉरिटी’ घोषित किया गया है.
मामले की शुरुआत 28 दिसम्बर 2006 को तब हुई जब स्कूल के ही एक अधियापक
डा. राजिंदर के. सिंगला ने सीबीएसई से इस स्कूल से सम्बंधित जानकारी
मांगी थी कि उन्हें स्कूल के नियम, फीस, अधिआप्कों की योग्यताएं,
मैनेजमेंट समिति के सदस्यों की सूची इतियादी मुहैया करवाई जाए. पांच दिन
बाद स्कूल ने सिंगला को तुरंत प्रभाव से नौकरी से निकाल दिया. जानकारी की
बजाये जवाब मिला कि एक निजी संसथान होने के नाते यह स्कूल आरटीआई एक्ट के
दायरे में ही नहीं आता. मामला केंद्रीय सूचना आयोग, दिल्ली तक पहुंचा
जहाँ 25 जनवरी 2008 को इस स्कूल को आरटीआई के तहत ‘पब्लिक अथॉरिटी’ घोषित
करते हुए आयोग ने स्कूल के प्रधानाध्यापक को आवेदक सिंगला को जानकारी
उपलब्ध कराने के निर्देश दिए थे.
स्कूल ने फरवरी 2008 में शिमला स्थित हिमाचल हाई कोर्ट का दरवाजा
खटखटाया, जहाँ इस फैसले पर रोक लगा दी गयी. सिंगल बेंच तथा डिवीज़न बेंच
में वर्ष 2016 तक इस मामले की सुनवाई के पश्चात् हिमाचल प्रदेश उच्च
न्यायालय की खंडपीठ के मुख्य न्यायाधीश मंसूर अहमद मीर और न्यायमूर्ति
तरलोक सिंह चौहान ने 2008 के सीआईसी के फैसले को खारिज करते हुए मामला
फिर आयोग को भेज दिया. केंद्रीय सूचना आयोग ने दोबारा इस स्कूल को आरटीआई
एक्ट के तहत पब्लिक अथॉरिटी घोषित करते हुए कहा है कि स्कूल तथा इसको
चलाने वाली सोसाइटी दोनों ही जनता के प्रति जवाबदेह हैं. इसलिए एक महीने
के भीतर न केवल सूचना अधिकारी और प्रथम अपीलीय प्राधिकारी की नियुक्ति की
जाए, बलिक इस कानून की धारा 4 द्वारा अनिवार्य सभी आवश्यक खुलासे किये
जाएँ. अपने फैसले में सूचना आयुक्त एम श्रीधर आचार्युलू ने कहा कि देश का
रक्षा विभाग इस स्कूल की 127.47 एकड़ भूमि, इमारतें व् लगे हुए पेड़ों का
वास्तविक मालिक है. देश की सर्वोच्च अद्दलत द्वारा एक केस में दिए गये
लिटमस परीक्षण के मुताबिक अगर सरकार द्वारा यह ग्रांट वापिस ली जाए तो
स्कूल चल ही नहीं सकता, इस लिए स्कूल आरटीआई अधिनियम की धारा 2 (एच) (डी)
(ii) के तहत निर्धारित शर्त "पर्याप्त वित्तपोषण" को पूरा करके आरटीई
कानून के दायरे में आता है. आयोग ने तो यहाँ तक कहा है कि अगर मान भी
लिया जाए कि सनावर स्कूल एक प्राइवेट संस्था है, तब भी स्कूल तथा सोसाइटी
जानकारी देने से इनकार नहीं कर सकते क्योंकि ‘सोसाइटीज रजिस्ट्रेशन एक्ट,
1860’ के तहत पंजीकृत संस्थाएं आरटीआई कानून की धरा 2 (एफ) के तहत भी
जनता के प्रति जवाबदेह हैं.
इस मुद्दे का विश्लेषण करते हुए आयोग ने आगे कहा है कि जिस जमीन पर स्कूल
स्थित है वह एक ब्रिटिश अधिकारी श्री लॉरेंस द्वारा खरीदी गयी थी. साल
1947 में जब भारत स्वतंत्र हुआ, भूमि के लिए कोई दावेदार नहीं था. भारत
के संविधान के अनुच्छेद 296 का हवाला देते हुए भी आयोग ने भारत सरकार को
ही इस स्कूल का मालिक ठहराया है.
सिंगला का कहना है कि उपरोक्त तथ्यों से कहीं लगता है कि वाकई सूचना का
अधिकार देश में उन्हीं शब्दों और भावनाओं से लागू हुआ है जिसमे कहा गया
है कि देश का प्रत्येक नागरिक साधारण आवेदन से मात्र 10 रूपये फी देकर 30
दिन के भीतर सूचना प्राप्त कर सकेगा.

Please find below and attached (as MS Word File, ENGLISH/Hindi Unicode) a
news-story based on the subject cited for your kind perusal and publication
in your esteemed publication.

Dr Rajinder K Singla
RTI Activist, Chandigarh
Mobile/WhatsApp: +91-9417538456

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