Co-operative societies do not fall within the ambit of Right to Information Act, the Supreme Court has said while quashing a Kerala government circular to bring all such societies within the scope of the transparency law.

A bench of justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and A.K. Sikri said mere supervision or regulation of a body by government would not make that body a public authority and quashed the Kerala High Court’s order holding the circular valid.

“Societies are, of course, subject to the control of the statutory authorities like Registrar, Joint Registrar, the Government, etc. but cannot be said that the State exercises any direct or indirect control over the affairs of the society which is deep and all pervasive.

“Supervisory or general regulation under the statute over the co-operative societies, which are body corporate does not render activities of the body so regulated as subject to such control of the State so as to bring it within the meaning of the State or instrumentality of the State,” the bench said.

The State Government had informed the Registrar of Co-operative Societies in May 2006 that all institutions formed by laws made by State Legislature is a public authority and, therefore, all co-operative institutions coming under the administrative control of the Registrar of Co-operative Societies are also public authorities.

Quashing the state government’s decision, the bench said that power exercised by the Registrar over the societies is merely supervisory and regulatory.

“The mere supervision or regulation as such by a statute or otherwise of a body would not make that body a public authority within the meaning of Section 2(h)(d)(i) of the Act.

In other words just like a body owned or body substantially financed by the appropriate government, the control of the body by the appropriate government would also be substantial and not merely supervisory or regulatory,” the bench said.

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