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SGPC Covered Under RTI, Says CIC

Jan 7, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
source: The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Punjab

SGPC covered under RTI, says CIC
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 4

The Punjab State Information Commission has held that the SGPC is a “public authority” and comes under the Right to Information Act

Taking up three cases pertaining to the denial of information to applicants by the SGPC, the Chief Information Commissioner, Punjab, Ramesh Inder Singh, today stated that the SGPC was a creation of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, marking the culmination of the struggle of the Sikh people to wrest control of their places of worship from mahants or priests. “The objective of the legislation was to provide for better administration of certain Sikh gurdwaras. The Act provides for an elected democratic regime to manage the affairs of gurdwaras. Transparency and openness are, therefore, in consonance with the democratic character of the SGPC,” he wrote in his orders.

The CIC also noted that the SGPC had been giving information under the RTI Act in some cases while refusing information in others on the grounds that it was not covered under the RTI Act as it was not owned, controlled or financed by the government.

It was argued by the SGPC that no other religious institution or a place of worship of any other religion was subject to the RTI Act and, therefore, there was no reason why the SGPC should be subjected to the provisions of the RTI Act. It was also pleaded that allowing information may lead to a situation where non-believers may seek information which would interfere with the religious rights of the minority to manage and administer its own religious and educational affairs. Lastly, it was argued that the SGPC was not one body but there were many branches and organisations of the SGPC.

The information seekers had, however, said that the SGPC was a body established by an Act of the legislature and, therefore, it was a public authority. It was further argued that unless the disclosure of information was exempted under Section 8 or 9 of the Act, the respondent had no option but to supply the information. The identity of the organisations exempted from the provisions of the RTI Act has been mentioned in the Second Schedule to the Act, in conformity with Section 24 of the RTI Act. The SGPC is not mentioned in the Second Schedule. Lastly, it was argued that even private organisations under certain circumstances were subject to the operation of the RTI Act and the SGPC could not seek exemption on the grounds that it does not receive substantial financial assistance from the state

Disagreeing with the arguments put forth by the SGPC and ordering it to provide information to the applicants within 15 days, Ramesh Inder Singh said: “The fact that it is not funded by the state or the fact that some of its educational institutions do not get any financial aid from the government is not material; it is a public authority because it is the creation of law.”



1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Does this cut both ways? Transparency is required because the SGPC is a creation of the legislature. How does that help or hinder a more representative selection of jathedars or committee members? How does the religious leadership wrest itself from being political appointments? This one stumps me.

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