RTI Judgement Series: All deemed universities are public authorities
Moneylife Digital Team 17 December 2012

All deemed universities, including NMIMS, are public authorities as defined under as per Section 2 (h)(d) of the RTI Act. This is the 12th in a series of important judgements given by Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC that can be used or quoted in an RTI application

As per Section 2 (h)(d) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, all deemed universities are public authorities. This provision is rarely invoked to declare bodies as public authorities. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner said “...a deemed university gets this status by virtue of a notification issued by the Central government. Since NMIMS University is also a deemed University by virtue of a notification by the Central Government, it is a public authority and must furnish information as mandated by the RTI Act”.

 

“NMIMS has been conferred the status of a deemed university by virtue of notification no. F.9-37/2001-U-3 dated 13 January 2003 of the Government of India. It clearly meets the criterion of Section 2 (d) of the Act since it gets its status as “deemed university” by virtue of a notification by the Central Government. All deemed universities are public authorities as defined under the RTI Act,” the Central Information Commission (CIC) said in its order dated 27 July 2009.

 

Mumbai resident Mahavir Chopda, on 25 February 2008, sought information from NMIMS University regarding cancellation of registrations by students during 2005 to 2008 and refund by the university. His queries were...

 

For each of the academic years 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08, please furnish the following information precisely and concisely:-

(1) In how many instances did students cancel admission after paying fees for admission to your FT-MBA Course?

(2) What amount of fees was retained by NMIMS (i.e. collected by NOT refunded to students) due to the above cancellations?

(3) Among the above students, how many students cancelled admission before commencement of the course? How much fees was retained by NMIMS due to these cancellations in particular?

               (4) What was the last date when a student was admitted to your FT-MBA Course?

 

While the public information officer (PIO) refused to give information, the First Appellate Authority (FAA) did not reply. Due to this, Mr Chopda then approached the Commission.

 

During the first hearing on 5 January 2009, one Shekhar Gupta filed a Vakalatnama on behalf of NMIMS University. He sought adjournment saying that he know nothing about what he is supposed to represent. Mr Gandhi, noted, “...The Commission is not amused at this move to delay the process but is making an exception and listing it on 14th January”.

 

During the hearing, Mr Gupta, representing NMIMS University, gave a written submission to argue that the institution is not a public authority. The Commission asked him whether the university is substantially financed by the government, whether it has received land at concessional rates or any other subsidies and if donations received by the university are exempt from payment of Income Tax. The CIC asked the university to file an affidavit before 7 February 2009.

 

An affidavit was filed by Madhav N Welling, pro-vice chancellor of NMIMS University, dated 3 February 2009 stating that the deemed university has not obtained any land at concessional rates nor are the donations received exempt from payment of Income tax.

 

On 24 February 2009, the Commission wrote a letter to NMIMS University stating it wishes to draw attention to following points:-

 

“Section 2(h) of the RTI Act defines public Authority in the following words:

‘Public authority’ means any authority or body or institution of self government established or constituted-
(a)     by or under the Constitution;
(b)     by any other law made by Parliament;

(c)     By any other law made by State Legislature;
(d)     by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government ad includes any- ………………by the appropriate Government.”
 

Therefore, any authority or body established or constituted by notification issued by the appropriate government is a “public authority” under the RTI Act.

 

Section 3 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956, provides for the constitution of Deemed Universities. Section 3 reads as follows:-

 

The Central Government may, on the advice of the Commission, declare by notification in the Official Gazette, that any institution for higher education, other than a University, shall be deemed to be a university for the purpose of this Act, and on such a declaration being made, all the provisions of this Act shall apply to such institution as if it were a university within the meaning of clause (f) of Section 2.

 

It appears from Section 3 that deemed universities are declared to be so by notification in the official Gazette by the Central Government. Of this is the case, then a deemed university may come within the definition of “Public Authority”.

 

During the hearing on 27 March 2009, Mr Gupta, appearing on behalf of NMIMS University agreed that the university was conferred the status of deemed university by a notification issued by the Central Government. He also raised two points quoting an order of Rajasthan Information Commission in appeal no 159/08 of 16 April 2008 and also a stay order issued by the Delhi High Court on 14 November 2008 in WP (C) No. 8035/2008. The Commission then reserved its order to consider points raised by the University.

 

The Commission on 31 March 2009 considered the stay order mentioned by NMIMS University. It said the facts of this case are different that the one mentioned in the high court stay order. The Rajasthan Information Commission in a particular case stated that “The Jain Vishwa Bharti is not an authority or body or institution of self government established and constituted (a) by or under the constitution. Jain Vishwa Bharti, on the other hand, is a society registered under Societies Registration Act and notified as a deemed university under Section 3 of University of University Grants Commission (UGC) Act, 1956.”

 

Section 2 (d) states “Public Authority means any authority or body or institution of self government established or constituted:

…………..

d)      by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government,”

 

According to Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956...

 

“Application of Act to institutions for higher studies other than Universities. The Central Government may, on the advice of the Commission, declare, by notification in the Official Gazette, that any institution for higher education, other than a university, shall be deemed to be a university for the purposes of this Act, and on such a declaration being made, all the provisions of this Act shall apply to such institution as if it were a University within the meaning of clause (f) of section 2.”

 

and Section 2 clause (f) states...

“’University’ means a University established or incorporated by or under a Central Act, a Provincial Act or a State Act, and includes any such institution as may, in consultation with the university concerned, be recognized by the Commission in accordance with the regulations made in this behalf under this Act.”

 

The Commission said, NMIMS clearly meets the criterion of Section 2(d) of the Act, since it got its status as a “deemed university” by virtue of a notification by the Central Government and must furnish information as mandated by the RTI Act.

 

Allowing the appeal of Mr Chopda, the Commission asked Mr Welling, the pro-vice chancellor of NMIMS University to provide the information free of cost before 20 April 2009 and also send a copy of the information to the Commission.

 

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC /OK/A/2008/01098/SG/2550

https://ciconline.nic.in/cic_decisions/SG-31032009-13.pdf

 

Appeal No. CIC/OK/A/2008/01098/

 

                                                                  

Appellant                                            : Mahavir Chopda

                                                            Mumbai-400003

 

Respondent                                        : Public Information Officer

                                                            NMIMS University

                                                            V.L Mehta Road, Vile Parle (w)

                                                            Mumbai - 400056

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