Registrar of Cooperative Societies functioning under the Cooperative Societies Act is a public authority within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the Act. As a public authority, Registrar of Co-operative Societies has been conferred with lot of statutory powers under the respective Act under which he is functioning. He is also duty bound to comply with the obligations under the RTI Act and furnish information to a citizen under the RTI Act. Information which he is expected to provide is the information enumerated in Section 2(f) of the RTI Act subject to the limitations provided u/s 8 of the Act. Registrar can also, to the extent law permits, gather information from a Society, on which he has supervisory or administrative control under the Cooperative Societies Act. Consequently, apart from the information as is available to him, u/s 2(f), he can also gather those information from the Society, to the extent permitted by law.
Registrar is also not obliged to disclose those information if those information fall u/s 8(1)(j) of the Act. No provision has been brought to our knowledge indicating that, under the Cooperative Societies Act, a Registrar can call for the details of the bank accounts maintained by the citizens or members in a cooperative bank. Only those information which a Registrar of Cooperative Societies can have access under the Cooperative Societies Act from a Society could be said to be the information which is “held” or “under the control of public authority”. Even those information, Registrar, as already indicated, is not legally obliged to provide if those information falls under the exempted category mentioned in Section 8(j) of the Act. Apart from the Registrar of Co-operative Societies, there may be other public authorities who can access information from a Cooperative Bank of a private account maintained by a member of Society under law, in the event of which, in a given situation, the society will have to part with that information. But the demand should have statutory backing.
But “the Cooperative Societies registered under the Kerala Co-operative Societies Act will not fall within the definition of “public authority” as defined u/s 2(h) of the RTI Act and the State Government letter dated 5.5.2006 and the circular dated 01.06.2006 issued by the Registrar of Co-operative Societies, Kerala, to the extent, made applicable to societies registered under the Kerala Co-operative Societies Act would stand quashed in the absence of materials to show that they are owned, controlled or substantially financed by the appropriate Government”.[ SUPREME COURT OF INDIA- THALAPPALAM SER. COOP. BANK LTD. AND OTHERS Vs. STATE OF KERALA AND OTHERS-2013) 12 SCALE 527 : (2013) 16 SCC 82]