All funds and financial aid received by aided colleges from the University Grants Commission (UGC) must be disclosed suo-motu and furnish such details along with its actual utilisation in public domain to ascertain whether the public money has been properly spent or not, ruled Nagpur bench of State Information Commission (SIC).
This will make all aided colleges, which receive funds from the state and also UGC, more accountable and there will be public check on spending of public money, the Commission ruled.
Since UGC disburses fund to aided colleges out of public kitty, it becomes bounden duty of such educational institutions to voluntarily disclose these details on their registered website under section 4(1) of the Right to Information Act, the SIC held while allowing four appeals filed by Vijay Rathi against two Wardha based colleges.
The State Information Commissioner Rahul Pande has further asked the UGC to consider incorporation of such disclosure in its scheme to ensure better transparency in actual utilisation of funds for the given purpose. Besides, the Principal Secretary of Higher and Technical Education, Director of Higher and Technical Education and Registrars of all Universities within Maharashtra have been asked to convey and enforce these directions without any delay.
In the instant case, the applicant Rathi under RTI had sought details about the UGC funds received by GS Colleges of Commerce and Bajaj College of Science along with utilisation certificate and vouchers to support the claim. But the Public Information Officer turned down the request stating that no public interest is involved and that college routinely receives UGC grants under various heads and audited utilisation certificates of the same are sent to UGC after grants are utilised for the purpose they have been received.
Besides, the UGC itself has been mandated to ensure whether the grants are given as per rules and whether the grantee college has used it properly or not. The First Appellate Authority while rejecting the first appeal also upheld the contention that applicant had no locus standi to check whether the grants have been properly given by UGC as per rules and has failed to establish any bonafide public interest for the disclosure of information.
Setting aside the orders, the SIC noted that aided colleges are bound to disclose details about receipt of public money which are disbursed for furtherance of academic excellence, holding of national seminars, undertaking research projects or creation of infrastructure including sports complex, research units or library for imparting quality education to students and to ensure their fulsome growth. Therefore, there is no legal bar to disclose details about amount received along with purpose and audited utilisation certificates submitted to UGC since they are public documents and part of information as defined under section 2(f) of the RTI Act.