TTD should fall under the ambit of RTI

TTD should fall under the ambit of RTI
Highlights

TTD should fall under the ambit of RTI, Madabhushi Sridhar, TTD, Tirumala, RTI Act. AP Information Commissioner Vijaya Babu said that the TTD was set up by a legislation of the State Assembly.

Madabhushi Sridhar, Central Information Commissioner (CIC), said the TTD was very much a public authority answerable under the RTI Act. He advised the authorities to file a public interest litigation in the AP High Court against the claims of the TTD insulating itself from the RTI Act on the ground that it was not a public authority

For the past few months there has been a friction between Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) authorities, Right to Information (RTI) activists and the AP Information Commissioner. The TTD has insulated itself from divulging information under the RTI Act, 2005.

AP Information Commissioner Vijaya Babu said that the TTD was set up by a legislation of the State Assembly. He said that the TTD had refused to bring itself under the ambit of the RTI Act because it was not set up with government funds.

At a recent press conference, Madabhushi Sridhar, Central Information Commissioner (CIC), said the TTD was very much a public authority answerable under the RTI Act. He advised the authorities to file a public interest litigation in the AP High Court against the claims of the TTD insulating itself from the RTI Act on the ground that it was not a public authority.

“The TTD gives money to the government and, therefore, is a public authority. It is also a religious institution and a trust which makes it all the more answerable to the public as an authority under the meaning of RTI,” he pointed out.

Ravi Kumar, PRO at the TTD, is unclear. “There is a stay on divulging information in the temples in Kerala as they are religious institutions. Our legal department has moved for a stay in the High Court,” he said.

AP Legislative Council chairman Chakrapani in a meeting at the TTD last month observed that no temple or religious institutes should be exempted from the RTI Act.

“In my view, it is the right of every person and devotee to know the details and ongoings in the temples or other religious institutions. Hence, no exemption should be given to TTD either,” he said, adding that the courts of various states were split over application of the RTI to religious institutions.

“In Chennai, all temples fall under the RTI Act. Temple is a public institution, and its activities are covered by the provisions of the Act even if it is administered by hereditary trustees,” the Madras High Court ruled in 2012. Justice Chandru of the Madras High Court said, "The temple is a public institution. Merely because it is administered by a hereditary trustee, the public character of a temple will not disappear. Temples are clearly brought under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) Act, and further, public collections are made for various activities of the temple, including rituals. The state government also spends huge amounts every year for administering the department to manage the temples and also releases various grants for renovation of the temples including special grants for conducting Kumbhabishekam periodically. While that is so, it cannot be said that the temple is a private institution for the purpose of the RTI Act."

Till the TTD authorities obtain a stay from the High Court, they fall under the purview of the RTI Act, 2005.

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