Constitution Club of India comes within the purview of RTI Act, held to be a public authority

Central Information Commission (CIC):  “There is an indirect funding of the appropriate Government to the CCI (Constitution Club of India) and therefore, the CCI is held to be a Public Authority in terms of Section 2(h)(d)(i) of the RTI Act,” observed CIC while rejecting the contention of Constitution Club that it is not public authority as defined under Section 2(h) of RTI Act.

Earlier, Constitution Club refused to respond to an RTI application seeking information regarding a news clipping “Constitution Club: 50 MPs slam management”, claiming that Constitution Club does not come within the purview of Section 2(h)(d)(i) of the RTI Act. The Constitution Club of India was established with the objectives and purposes of fostering social contacts and providing usual amenities of a club life for the benefit of the members of the Indian Constituent Assembly. Apart from information related to establishment, functions and management of the Club, the RTI applicant also questioned about the ownership of property, assets, lands, buildings and other belongings etc. of Constitution Club. The applicant also questioned whether Lok Sabha is ex-officio President of Constitution Club.

After perusal of material on record and hearing the parties, CIC observed that the Lok Sabha Speaker is the ex officio president of the club, Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker its ex officio general secretary and Union Minister for Urban Development and Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson its ex officio vice-president. Though the said positions are claimed to be honorary and ceremonial, they are, in fact, substantially controlling as proved by the transactions and transfers. While also observing that the Club is substantially financed by the Government, CIC noted, “Funding by the Government i.e. inclusive of rent receipts and the renovation amount is so substantial in nature and it cannot be ignored for considering the public character of the CCI.”

The Commission noted that people should have a right to ask about functioning of CCI and spending on it to create facilities for their elected representatives as Union Government is transferring huge properties and creating big facilities at the cost of exchequer to Constitution Club of India, which is enough to declare it as public authority under RTI Act.  The Commission also observed that the claim of the Club that  important documents related to the Club were not available, reflected serious negligence and directed the Club to be careful and systematic in keeping the records. While concluding the judgment, CIC declared Constitutional Club of India as “public authority” under Section 2(h) of RTI Act and directed the Club to appoint a Central Public Information Officer to respond to RTI applications. [Subhash Chandra Agrawal v. Constitutional Club of India, 2016 SCC OnLine CIC 13356, decided on October 14, 2016]

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