Recently, a division bench of the central information commission (CIC) declared Delhi’s Guru Harikishan Public School (GHPS), a minority educational institution, which is run by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DGSMC) under the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Act (DSG) enacted by the Parliament, as public authority under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The school management argued that the Guru Harkrishan Public School was registered before enacting the DSG Act and, is hence, a private body. In its second appeal argument, it stated: “The DSG Act came into force on 30 December 1971 while the Guru Harkrishan Public School was registered on 5 February 1971. Therefore, it cannot be said to be established under the aegis of the DGSMC.’’
However, the CIC division bench, headed by central information commissioner Vanaja S Sarna, concluded that the school “clearly owes allegiance to DGSMC, which is a public authority.”
The division bench thus observed that “the present GHPS Society in its website, itself claims to have been established by the Gurdwara Management Committee in 1965, and after the ordinance of 1971 it was taken over by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, formed under the DSG Act, 1971. Thus, there appears no impediment in declaring the GHPS as a public authority as defined under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.”
The school management representative had also referenced some earlier CIC decisions in its favour, but it did not hold water with the division bench.
However, the CIC division bench order candidly stated that “in the current day and age, bringing the GHPS within the ambit of public authority will only enhance the transparency of its operations, thereby further boosting public confidence in the institution.”
It has ordered the school management to provide information requisitioned by the RTI applicant Rashmi Sharma regarding the qualifications of its teachers and send a copy of the compliance report to the commission.
The website dsgmc.in states: Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee or DSGMC is an autonomous organisation that manages gurdwaras in Delhi state. DSGMC also manages various educational institutions, hospitals, old age homes, libraries and other charitable institutions in Delhi. It is headquartered in Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib, near Parliament House. In 1971, the Government of India entrusted the management, through an ordinance, to a five-member Gurdwara Board.
RTI applicant Rashmi Sharma had filed the following queries:
* The qualification of each teacher appointed as post-graduate teachers (PGTs) from 2004 till date, of each of the branch of the school.
* How many teachers have been given relaxation of minimum qualification for appointment as PGTs from 2004 till date, in each of the branch of your school?
* How many teachers have been given relaxation of minimum experience for appointment as PGTs from 2004 till date, in each of the branch of the school.
* The approval sought from the directorate of education regarding minimum qualification of teachers as PGTs from 2004 till date, in each of the branch of the school.
* The approval granted by the directorate of education regarding minimum qualification of teachers as PGTs from 2004 till date, in each of the branch of your school.
Ms Sharma had filed the RTI application on 5 September 2017. On 10 October 2017, the school sent a letter stating that it is governed under the Society Registration Act, 1869, which is not a public authority as defined under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005.
She filed a first appeal with the first appellate authority (FAA) on 10 November 2017 but the FAA turned down her request.
She then filed a second appeal on 24 April 2018, which came up for hearing before a division bench of CIC on 4th February and 4 October 2021. The decision was given on 1 November 2021. That’s nearly four years of waiting to get the information that should have been put up voluntarily by the school management as per Section 4 of the RTI Act.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also the convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)