The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi is not liable to answer queries made under the Right to Information Act as it does not fulfil criteria of a public authority, the Central Information Commission has held.

“To qualify for a public authority, an entity should be owned, controlled or substantially financed, directly or indirectly, by the government. It is nobody's case that the RGF is owned by the government,” the Commission held.

The full Bench of Information Commissioners M. M. Ansari, M. L. Sharma, and Satyananda Mishra said government contribution had been less than four per cent of the total average income of RGF since its inception. The case relates to an RTI application filed before the RGF by Shanmuga Patro, who said the formation of RGF was declared by the Government of India through a budget speech by the then Finance Minister. The Government created a corpus for running the affairs of RGF, he claimed. He argued that the RGF was operating from a building on land, which was initially allotted by the government at a normal price to the Jawahar Bhawan Trust on a perpetual lease.

Later, on a Trust request, the Urban Development Ministry “accepted the usage of the land and building by the RGF for absolutely free. The rental value of this real estate in the open market would be huge,” Mr. Patro said.

Rejecting the arguments, the Commission wondered whether the rental value of the premises at market rates was such that it would make the RGF a public authority.

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