The State information commission, Punjab in a directive given last week, ruled that Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) managed Guru Ram Dass Charitable trust is a public authority, and directed it to appoint a public information officer.
"I have no hesitation in holding that the Guru Ram Dass Charitable Trust is a public authority within the meaning of the RTI Act being a legal extension of SGPC, a statutory body. Therefore, the trust shall take steps to appoint a PIO and comply with all other provisions of the (RTI) Act ibid," Chief information commissioner Ramesh Inder Singh said in his judgment.
The judgment further adds that under section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005, anybody or organisation, which is established or created by a law of Parliament or State Legislature, is deemed to be a public authority. SGPC, being a creation of law is a public authority. The statutory body creates Shri Guru Ram Dass Research and medical institute Amritsar, in 1977 from its own resources and on land donated by a village panchayat.
"Later in 1992 SGPC passed a resolution, creating a trust and transferred the assets of the institute to Guru Ram Dass Charitable Trust, making its incumbent president a life time member and further incorporating a clause in the trust deed that SGPC President shall be an ex-officio President of Trust," further points the information commission's judgment.
The Trust deed provides for annual financial assistance from SGPC of Rs.60 lakh to run and maintain the respondent hospital and its trustees are nominated by SGPC, further refers the order.
"In these circumstances, the trust and the medical institute run by Trust must be viewed as an arm of the SGPC. In the circumstances, the legal veil of a Trust created by registration of a society will have to be lifted and the umbilical cord between the trust and the SGPC is established," adds the order.
The information commission also ruled out the possibility of giving benefit of minority status to the Guru Ram Dass medical college trust, running the medical college referring to a case decided in recent past against Christian Medical College Ludhiana.
"The CMC has also referred to its minority character. Transparency does not take away the right of minorities to manage their affairs, nor does minority status mean a right to operate behind the curtain or hushed management of its affairs, says the order adding that the argument that transparency law is not applicable to minority run educational institutions has no merit as the law does not exempt an institution from disclosure of information on grounds of its minority status and such a standing in extraneous to the RTI Act.
Keep SGPC out of RTI Act ambit - Makkar:
SGPC being a religious institution and run by donations should be kept out of the ambit of RTI act, commented SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar. Colleges and institutions run by the gurudwara committee should also not be covered under RTI act, he demanded. "SGPC would challenge the decision of information commission in higher court of justice and fight for its sanctity," he added.