In a landmark decision, the Himachal Pradesh government has brought all privately managed and run high schools and senior secondary schools under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The Directorate of Higher Education has amended the 2016 decision of HP Chief Information Commissioner and has brought all private schools under the purview of RTI Act.
Earlier, only those private educational institutions were liable to provide information under RTI Act that used to receive grant-in-aid from the state government under HP Private Education Institutions (regulation) Act, 1997.
“The Higher Education department has designated all the Deputy Directors of Higher Education of concerned district as Public Information Officer for private educational institutions which do not receive grants from the government. While Additional/Joint Director (Administration), Directorate of Higher Education would act as first Appellate Authority for these private schools with immediate effect,” Amarjeet Sharma, Director of Higher Education said.
Before the appointment of Deputy Directors as Public Information Officer (PIO), only principals of private schools (who used to receive grant-in-aid) were designated as PIO. But these PIOs used to refrain from giving information under RTI as they were not the designated public authority. This is the reason that now Deputy Directors appointed in the districts have now been designated as PIOs.
Now anyone can apply for information related to a private school in Himachal under RTI Act and if a person is not satisfied with the given reply, they can file an appeal before Additional/Joint Director (Administration) for the same.
It is worthwhile to mention here that the Directorate of Higher Education has modified State Chief Information Commissioner’s (CIC) February 2016 order.
The CIC in its order had directed the Director of Higher Education to appoint the PIO and Appellate Authorities in private high schools and senior secondary schools.
The CIC, in its order, had ruled that given the vide definition of ‘information’ in section 2(f) of RTI Act, 2005, these fall within the definition of information under the Act.
This had led the Education Department to enforce the order on all private run schools that receive financial help from the government for its operations. But amid complaints of mismanagement at private schools, the decision to amend the law was taken and directions have been issued to implement the order.
Officials at Higher Education said that now in the case of other private educational institutions, which are not financed substantially, the provisions of the HP Private Education Institutions (Regulation) Act, 1997 will be applicable to enforce the RTI ACT. They will have to provide the requisite information as mandated by the Act to the Competent Authority (Deputy Director of Higher Education) as per set norms.