Millennium Post

HC brings RWA'S, registered societies within RTI purview

Gurugram: The Punjab and Haryana High Court in its recent order has directed that all residential societies registered under the Haryana Regulation and Registration of Societies Act (HRRS), 2012, have to become fully compliant with the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, by July 2.

The directions were given in a civil writ petition — Saraswati Welfare Association Vs. Pradeep Kumar Raparia and others. The petition challenged an order of the State Information Commission (SIC), Haryana, directing all RWAs registered under the 2012 Act to implement RTI, which was given on a complaint by Raparia.

An order to this effect was has been sent to the principal secretary, the chief secretary, and the registrar general of societies, Haryana.

The order makes it mandatory for all residents' welfare associations (RWAs) in the state to appoint a public information officer (PIO) responsible for communication coordination and a first appellate authority designated to hear appeals.

Various societies and RWAs registered under the HRRS Act, though obliged to provide information in response to RTI requests, have not been proactive about the same, allege RTI activists.

"This is because there is no formal system in place for sharing information, such as appointing PIOs or appellate authorities," said city-based RTI activist Aseem Takyar.

These will now have to be appointed in two months once the state gives instructions.

The advantage of the ruling is that RWAs will have to become more transparent about their finances, and can no longer hide any information about their books, Takyar added.

It is important to note that there have been various complaints of how the residential societies in Gurugram are not using the maintenance funds to its proper use.

"Due to various residential societies in Gurugram and people pay maintenance for upkeep of common areas, street lights, etc., several RWAs have become money syphoning machines. They lack transparency and accountability. It takes years to get information on how much has been spent on what," said Karan Ahuja, a city resident

Even though the 2012 Haryana society act states that RWAs are liable to provide information under RTI, most RWAs claimed they were non-governmental organisations, making the extraction of information extremely difficult. I'm glad about the clarification in the high court's order. Now, RTI responses will help resolve many issues," said Abhay Puniya, who has been active with various city RWAs for 20 years.

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