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PMO official during UPA govt and others spread fake news that NTA is a private society not under RTI: Here is the truth

Former media advisor Pankaj Pachauri claimed that NTA is a private body because it is registered under Societies Registration Act, but actually hundreds of govt bodies are registered under this act

Even as controversies around the National Testing Agency and the cancellation of exams continue, fake news regarding the agency continues to emerge. In the latest incident, several netizens have started to claim that NTA is a private organisation and it does not come under the Right to Information Act. Using the fact that NTA was registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, several people are claiming that it is a private society. However, this is a false and baseless claim, and NTA is not a private body.

One prominent name making the claim is Pankaj Pachauri, journalist and former Communications Adviser to the PMO during the Manmohan Singh-led UPA-1 govt. Posting the certificate of registration of NTA on 26 June, Pachauri claimed that he is shocked to know that “NTA is a private society deciding the future of the students to publicly funded government institutions.”

The former NDTV journalist also claimed that NTA is not under RTI, which means no information about it can be obtained. He added that there is no public oversight, which means no accountability for NTA. He claimed that it has been done so that the “govt and the ministry can wash their hands off the scam.”

The same claim was made by a Congress worker named Harmeet Kaur K on X on 22 June. She claimed that NTA is “just a society, not set up by an Act of Parliament, or a PSU, or a public sector commission or board, or a registered company”. She claimed that as NTA is registered under the Societies Act, “it is just a Governing  Body with no general body to speak of, and is not subject to the rules that govern the conduct and honesty of government employees.”

While it is true that the National Testing Agency was registered as a Society under the  Societies (Registration) Act, 1860, the claim that it is a private society and does not come under laws such as RTI are completely false.

The NTA was formed by the Department of Higher Education under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (now called the Ministry of Education) and is a government body. Just because NTA is registered under the Societies Act, it does make it a ‘Private Society”. When it was formed in 2018, HRD secretary R Subrahmanyam was the chairman of the agency, and the members included other govt officials from various ministries and one member each from CBSE and IIT Kanpur.

The NTA website states that it is an autonomous organization under the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education, Government of India. Therefore, the claim that NTA is a private society is false, and it is a full-fledged government body directly under the control of the Union Education Ministry.

Just because NTA is registered under the Societies Registration Act, it does not mean it is a private body. There are a large number of govt bodies registered under the Societies Registration Act. For example, the Sports Authority of India is registered under the Act. Some other notable govt bodies registered as societies include the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, Navodya Vidyalaya Samiti, Film and Television Institute of India in Pune, National Rural Roads  Development Agency, National Horticulture Board, National Institute of Health and Family Welfare and many others.

Many of these institutions are decades old, which means the practice of registering govt bodies as societies has been going on for a long time, it is not something started by the Modi government. It is concerning that a person who worked in the PMO during the UPA govt is not aware of the fact that a large number of govt organisations are under Societies Registration Act, 1860 under various ministries and departments.

Similarly, the claim that NTA does not come under RTI is also completely false. The NTA website has a dedicated section on filing RTIs. It states that RIT queries can be raised with NTA using the standard for seeking information under the RTI.

NTA has also made several suo moto disclosers on its website, where it as uploaded several manuals, appraisal reports, replies in the parliament, and responses to RTI queries. This means, a lot of information about the agency can be obtained from the website without filing a request under the act.

The other claim by Pankaj Pachauri, that NTA does not have public oversight and therefore it has no accountability is also completely false. Just like hundreds of govt bodies registered under the Societies Registration Act, NTA also has public oversight through the ministry and ultimately through the parliament.

As a govt body under the education ministry, NTA is subject to audits and other oversights applicable to all government agencies.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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