The Supreme Court has stayed a Full Bench judgment of the Kerala High Court holding that cooperative societies in the State would come within the ambit of ‘public authority’ under the Right to Information Act.
A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra stayed the judgment for three months after hearing senior counsel V. Giri and counsel Vipin Nair, appearing for Thalappalam Service Cooperative Bank challenging the judgment dated April 10. The Bench issued notice to the respondents seeking their reply.
The appellant society contended that the Full Bench of the High Court had erroneously interpreted the provisions of the RTI Act to hold that a co-operative society being a democratically run organisation should get covered under the definition of “public authority”.
The appellant said “a co-operative society is a conglomeration of people within the territorial limit who join together for economic advancements of themselves by conducting different economic activities. The profit and loss is shared equally by the members of the general body of the society. Needless to say, the activities of the society are confined to its members. Co-operative societies are autonomous bodies and are not creations of a statute. It is clear that the RTI Act is applicable to the functioning of ‘public authorities’ only. It is not meant to cover any and every organisation which has no connection with the public at large.”
It said “it cannot be stated that each and every co-operative society receives funding from the government, let alone being substantially funded. Therefore, each and every co-operative society cannot be said to be satisfying the definition of a ‘public authority’.”
The appellant further said “conflicting view on the said issue exists amongst the different High Courts. An authoritative and final order is required from this Court so that the matter is put to rest and the various petitioners are saved from the continuing uncertainty on this issue.” The appellant sought quashing of the impugned judgment and an interim stay.