The prestigious Lawrence School at Sanawar in Kasauli hills of Himachal Pradesh, which boasts of alumni like Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, has come under the purview of the RTI Act.
“The CIC has declared both Lawrence School and the society running it as public authority,” Right to Information (RTI) activist Rajinder K. Singla told IANS on Friday, quoting the Central Information Commission’s (CIC) latest order.
Singla has been fighting for almost a decade to get the RTI Act extended to the school to make it accountable to the public.
He said the CIC, in its order dated December 6 last year, directed the school authorities to appoint a public information officer and First Appellate Authority within a month from the receipt of the order.
Information Commissioner M. Sridhar Acharyulu in his order observed that to decide whether Lawrence School is public authority, it is required to be proved that the school is substantially financed by the government.
“As the entire land consisting of 127.47 acres with buildings, structures and trees thereon were considered as military lands and the Defence Department transferred all that to the society, it proves that the government has substantially funded the society to run this school by giving land and buildings,” he said.
“This fulfils one of the conditions prescribed under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act to declare the school as public authority,” Acharyulu observed.
It said the school was being run by a society registered under Section 19 of the Societies Registration Act of 1860, which imposed an obligation on the society to provide information to any person.
Singla, who was working as senior biology teacher in the school, had on December 28, 2006, sought from the affiliating board, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), information relating to the school like school rules, qualifications of teachers, student fees and members of the school management committee.
However, five days later, the school removed him from service, giving him three months of advance salary in lieu of notice period.
After this, Singla started his fight to bring the residential public school, which also boasts of alumni like Punjab’s Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, under the purview of the RTI Act.
Earlier, the CIC had issued an order in Singla’s favour in 2008. But the school challenged it in the Himachal Pradesh High Court.
On September 19 last year, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan quashed the CIC decision, and directed it to decide the case afresh.