RTI Act will not apply to cooperative societies, says Madras HC

A cooperative society could not be forced divulge names of farmers who had obtained interest-free loans, says Justice C.V. Karthikeyan

February 28, 2023 11:36 pm | Updated 11:36 pm IST - CHENNAI

The Madras High Court has set aside an order passed by Tamil Nadu State Information Commission directing a cooperative society to disclose information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005 though the Supreme Court had, as early as in 2013, held that cooperative societies do not fall within the ambit of the RTI Act.

Justice C.V. Karthikeyan allowed a writ petition filed by the president of Perunchery Primary Agricultural Co-operative Credit Society in Kuthalam taluk of Tiruvarur district against the Information Commission’s order. He said, a cooperative society could not be forced divulge names of farmers who had obtained interest-free loans.

Society not a statutory body

Stating that there was a difference between a statutory body and a body, such as a cooperative society, governed by a statute, the judge said, the Supreme Court while dealing with the Kerala Societies Registration Act of 1860 had held that a society was not a statutory body but only a body corporate.

Therefore, it was held that the provisions of the RTI Act would not be applicable to a cooperative society. The 2013 Supreme Court verdict had been followed by a Division Bench of the High Court in 2015 by making a clear distinction between a body created by a statute and a body that comes into existence and gets governed by a statute.

“Both (Supreme Court as well as Division Bench) the judgments are binding on this court. The petitioner society, being a cooperative society, is not a statutory body but a body created under a statute. Therefore, the RTI Act of 2005 is not applicable to the petitioner society,” the judge wrote.

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