In general, only public authorities come under the purview of RTI Act. Thus, the question arises that “do private schools come under RTI?” On various occasions, Central Information Commission and Courts have interpreted the definition of Public Authority to bring many organizations under purview of RTI Act. Public Authority is defined under section 2(h) of the RTI Act, which is produced below:
“2(h) “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted,—
(a) by or under the Constitution;
(b) by any other law made by Parliament;
(c) by any other law made by State Legislature;
(d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any—
(i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed;
(ii) non‑Government Organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government;”
As per this section it appears on face that private unaided schools may not come under RTI. However, if we go into meaning of right to information, which is defined under section 2(j) as “right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority…”, then it is clear that the information which is either accessible by or under the control of public authority comes under RTI Act. It doesn’t matter whether information is with public or private authorities. Thus, whether private unaided schools may or may not come under purview of the RTI Act will depend on the type of information asked. If public authorities can access such information under any provision of the law, such information is covered by the RTI Act and is subject to disclosure. The condition is the public authority (in case of schools, the Directorate of Education or Education Board or any other authority that governs and regulates) should be entitled to ask such information under law from private unaided schools. This covers not only the information already available with a public authority about private unaided schools, but also covers information that can be legally accessed by the public authority from such schools.
In a major boost to transparency in school admissions, and hearing the appeal on do private schools come under RTI, the Central Information Commission (CIC) passed an order asking the private schools in Delhi to divulge information under RTI Act. Subsequently, the federation of schools filed a petition before Hon’ble Delhi High Court seeking to quash the order of the CIC. After hearing the petition, the Delhi High Court upheld the order of the CIC that the private unaided schools will be covered under the RTI Act. The court ordered the schools to display information on total number of seats, total vacancies in classes, total seats under Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota, total applications received under the quota and other information relating to EWS quota applications, and asked the schools to update the information on weekly basis. Passing the judgment, the court also directed the education director to ensure compliance of the court’s directions. However, the court ruled that certain information such as budget estimates of receipts, payments of the ensuing year, final accounts, and the statement showing disbursement of salaries are exempt from disclosure under the RTI Act.
Recently, to ensure transparency in the functioning of private educational institutions, the government has decided to bring all private colleges, senior secondary and high schools under the RTI Act, 2005 with immediate effect. However, the Act will not cover medical and nursing colleges and schools affiliated to the CBSE and the ICSE.
This analysis clears the doubt that do private schools come under RTI?. Private schools will remain under purview of RTI Act and their details will be accessible to public.
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