Co-Operative Societies Not Public Authorities, Not Bound By Right To Information Act: Madras High Court Reiterates

Upasana Sajeev

10 Jun 2024 8:54 AM GMT

  • Co-Operative Societies Not Public Authorities, Not Bound By Right To Information Act: Madras High Court Reiterates

    The Madras High Court has recently held that co-operative societies registered under the Tamil Nadu Co-operative Societies Act do not fall within the definition of “public authority” under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act and thus are not bound by the Act. Justice Bhavani Subbaroyan thus set aside an order passed by the State Information Commissioner directing...

    The Madras High Court has recently held that co-operative societies registered under the Tamil Nadu Co-operative Societies Act do not fall within the definition of “public authority” under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act and thus are not bound by the Act.

    Justice Bhavani Subbaroyan thus set aside an order passed by the State Information Commissioner directing Madhanam Primary Agricultural Co-operative Credit Society to furnish all information sought by a man under the RTI Act.

    It is made clear that a co operative society registered under the Tamil Nadu Co-operative Societies Act is not bound by the RTI Act to provide the information requested by a citizen and that the co-operative society does not fall within the definition of “public authority” as defined under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act. Therefore, the impugned order passed by the 1st respondent in S.A.No.6082/A/2022 dated 04.05.2022 is liable to be quashed,” the court ruled.

    The court was hearing a petition filed by the President of the Co-operative Society. He informed the court that the credit society was an autonomous body and was not performing any public function to come within the expression of “State” within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution.

    The court was informed that one K Jeeva (the 4th respondent in the petition) had filed an RTI application seeking information on the details of persons who have availed loans from the society, copies of resolutions passed in the society, details of beneficiaries of jewel loan, details of jewel loan waiver and their patta and chitta, details of beneficiaries of agricultural loan and their patta and chitta and other details submitted by them.

    The society informed the court that as it was not a public authority, it did not furnish the information sought for in the RTI application following which Jeeva appealed before the Joint Registrar of Co-operative Societies and the State Information Commissioner. The State Information Commissioner ordered the society to furnish the details sought by Jeeva.

    The society argued that the order was illegal, arbitrary, and unsustainable. It was also argued that the definition of public authority under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act is exhaustive. Since the Co-operative society does not fall under the definition, it could not be directed to provide the information sought.

    Jeeva, on the other hand, contended that there were serious allegations raised by members of the Society against the administration for allotting crop loans, jewel loans, etc to certain persons who were related to the members of the administration. He also contended that though the Government implemented many loan waiver schemes, the members of the society could not enjoy its benefits due to the corrupt practice of the management.

    The court noted that as per the Apex Court's decision in Thalappalam Service Cooperative Bank Ltd. and Others Vs. State of Kerala and Others, a co-operative society was not covered under the Act. Thus, the court deemed it fit to quash the order of the State Information Commissioner and allowed the petition.

    Counsel for Petitioner: Mr.R.Shriram Adhethyen

    Counsel for Respondents: Mr.C.Vigneswaran Standing Counsel, Mr.P.Ganesan Additional Government Pleader, Mr.P.Thangaraj

    Citation: 2024 LiveLaw (Mad) 238

    Case Title: The President v The State Information Commissioner

    Case No: W.P.No.14298 of 2022

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