Other States

Odisha information commission brings major private university under RTI purview

The State Information Commission (SIC) in Odisha has declared Kalinga Institute of Industrial Training (KIIT), a deemed to be university and one of State’s largest private institutions, as a public authority, which means the university has to furnish information under the Right To Information Act.

Despite KIIT’s reluctance to come under the purview of the RTI Act during the past four years of hearing, the SIC, in a 92-page judgment, observed that since the institute received significant benefits from the State government, without which it would have struggled to carry on, it should respond to the RTI queries.

This is for the first time that a major private university in Odisha has been declared a public authority under the RTI Act.

“The commission is of the considered view that the KIIT is a public authority within the meaning of Section 2(h)(d)(ii) of the RTI Act, 2005 and is directed to furnish the required information to the appellant, as per his application in Form-A, within 30 days from the date of receipt of this order,” State Chief Information Commissioner Sunil Kumar Misra said in a judgment.

Pradip Pradhan, an RTI activist, had knocked on the doors of the SIC after he was denied information by the institution in 2017.

KIIT secretary Rabindra Nath Das had submitted that the institution did not come under the RTI Act as it was a society of private persons registered under the Societies’ Registration Act, 1860, and it was neither set up under the Constitution nor was it established by an Act of Parliament or the State Assembly.

Mr. Pradhan argued that KIIT was a big beneficiary of government’s “largesse”. The judgment quoted a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India which found that “although direct allotment of land to KIIT by State-run IDCO was meagre (7.083 acres), there were instances of undue benefits extended to KIIT in acquiring the remaining land (82.087acres), violating procedures of land allotment which resulted in a loss of ₹ 252.54 crore”.

As per the judgment, “The petitioner argued that KIIT has acquired 120.708 acres of government land, including 11.538 acres on which multi-storeyed buildings have been constructed, 18 acres of forest land unauthorisedly occupied and 91.07 acres of land given on lease by IDCO in the Patia and Patharagadia Mouza and in the Chandaka Industrial area. The respondent (KIIT) has not come with any direct denial of the above”.

Between 2013 and 2016, the KIIT had availed loan of ₹1506.39 crore. Parts of the loan were availed from scheduled banks and others on the basis of mortgage of the land leased to it. “It also emerges from the analysis that the tax-exemption benefits enjoyed by the respondent (KIIT) have enabled it to go in for huge and steady expansion. Further, the land taken from the government or IDCO on lease, some of which were mortgaged to the Banks helped the respondent get substantial finances from the banks which sub-served the explanation,” the SIC said in its judgment.

It further added, “The financing or funding received by the institute from the governments and their agencies have proved to the respondent (KIIT) to be of solid worth, considerable value, of real significance and of having significant material bearings and effects on the respondent’s establishment growth and continuing existence as an acclaimed multi-disciplinary institution. But for such direct and indirect financing or funding, the respondent would have had to struggle.”

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 12:05:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/odisha-information-commission-brings-major-private-university-under-rti-purview/article36008135.ece

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