The Delhi High Court Friday said that even those companies in which government has a minority stake can be brought under the purview of Right to Information (RTI) Act and declared National Agricultural Cooperative Federation of India Ltd (NAFED) as public authority.
Interpreting the Act, Justice S Muralidhar said there is no need to have deep or pervasive government control over an institution to bring it under the ambit of the transparency law.
"The absence of any adjective like deep or pervasive qualifying the word controlled in the RTI Act means that any control over the body by the central government will suffice to make it a public authority," the court said adding "a controlling interest through shareholding does not necessarily mean majority shareholding."
The Court passed the order while declaring cooperative societies such as NAFED, National Cooperative Consumer Federation of India Ltd or NCCF and Krishak Bharti Cooperative Ltd as public authorities.
The Court dismissed their plea for not bringing them under the transparency law on the grounds that government does not have majority stake in them and they are not controlled by government agencies.
"Through various provisions on the Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act, the Central government or the state government where the context requires, exercise control over them," the court said.
"The initial attempt by most organisations and entities is to avoid the obligations under the RTI Act. Since the culture of transparency has not fully set in and old habits die hard, there is resistance on the part of institutions and entities to avoid being declared a public authority," the court said.