A copy of Rules & Regulations of each affiliated unit of the Badminton Association of India was sought - CIC: Relationship between BAI & its affiliated units is not fiduciary; call for the information from the concerned units & provide if not available
This matter pertains to an RTI application dated 24.6.2013 filed by the Appellant, seeking a copy of Rules and Regulations of each affiliated unit of the Badminton Association of India (BAI). Not having received a reply from the CPIO, he filed an appeal to the First Appellate Authority on 10.8.2013. Not having heard from the FAA, the Appellant filed second appeal dated 19.11.2013 to the CIC, which was received by the Commission on 27.11.2013. In this appeal, he prayed that strict and appropriate action be taken by the Commission against the CPIO and he be directed to furnish the information sought in the RTI application.
2. We heard the submissions of the Appellant and the Respondents. The Appellant stated that his RTI application was not responded to within the time frame stipulated in the RTI Act and that the information sought by him has not been provided. The Respondents handed over written submissions of the CPIO during the hearing. The CPIO has submitted that the application was filed by the Appellant in his capacity as Honorary Secretary of the Delhi Badminton Association (DBA) on the letter head of DBA and, therefore, it was not processed by him (CPIO) in view of Section 3 of the RTI Act. He has further submitted that the FAA on receipt of a complaint dated 10.8.2013 filed by "the DBA through its Honorary Secretary Mr. S. P. Singh, using his own wisdom and mind disposed of the complaint on some other ground. However, the grant of information was denied by the First Appellate Authority also." The Respondents submitted during the hearing that a reply was sent by the FAA on 6.9.2013 to the Appellant, but it was received back undelivered and that it was again sent to him on 3.2.2014. A copy of this reply has been shown to us. In this reply, there is no mention of the Respondents not treating the application as an RTI application because of its having been filed by the Appellant in his capacity as Honorary Secretary of DBA. In fact, the response of the FAA relied on his interpretation of provisions of the RTI Act. He stated that the information sought by the Appellant related to third parties i.e. Badminton Associations of different states of the country and that it was furnished to BAI by those Associations in fiduciary relationship "and the disclosure of which may effect (Sic) the competitive position of third party (affiliated units) and the larger public interest does not warrant the disclosure of such information." In view of the foregoing, the FAA stated that the information in question was "exempted under the provisions of Section 8 of the Right to Information Act, 2005" and could not be provided under the provisions of the RTI Act. Therefore, it is clear that the FAA, at the time of sending his reply dated 6.9.2013, harboured no doubts about the admissibility of this application as an RTI application an issue now raised by the Respondents.
3. With regard to the delay in sending a response to the application, the Respondents cited the same grounds as those cited in respect of their response to another RTI application dated 21.6.2013 of the same Appellant, which was the subject matter of our order no. CIC/SS/C/2013/000531/SH dated 15.5.2014. After examining the facts of that case, we had come to the conclusion that it did not meet the requirement of Section 20(1) Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees: Provided that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard before any penalty is imposed on him: Provided further that the burden of proving that he acted reasonably and diligently shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be. regarding the CPIO not furnishing information within the stipulated time "without any reasonable cause" and that imposition of penalty was not warranted in that case. In view of the above, we would not resort to any action against the CPIO in this case also.
4. In his written submissions, the CPIO has also submitted that in the above mentioned order dated 15.5.2014, the Commission had declined to accept his contention that the application in that case was given on the letter head of DBA and was not cognizable under the RTI Act. He has further submitted that the Respondents have challenged the above mentioned order and paragraph 17 of the 'Guide on Right to Information Act, 2005', issued by the Department of Personnel and Training vide their Office Memorandum No. 1/4/2009IR dated 05.10.2009, before the High Court of Delhi by means of a writ petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and that vide its order dated 7.8.2014, the High Court asked the Respondents to file affidavits. The CPIO has contended that since the facts of the case before us are similar to those decided vide the Commission's order dated 15.5.2014, the hearing of the present matter may be adjourned till the final adjudication of the issue by the High Court. In response to our query, the Respondents submitted that the High Court has not granted a stay on the Commission's order dated 15.5.2014. Consequently, we see no ground to grant the prayer of the Respondents to adjourn the hearing of and a decision on the present matter.
5. We now come to the prayer of the Appellant for direction to the CPIO to provide the information sought by him. In this context, we note that in his reply dated 6.9.2013, the FAA had cited two grounds for denial of information:
(i) that the information sought by the Appellant related to third parties i.e. Badminton Associations of different States and that it was furnished to BAI by those associations in fiduciary relationship and
(ii) the disclosure of the information may affect the competitive position of third party (affiliated units) and the larger public interest did not warrant the disclosure of such information. The Respondents submitted during the hearing that the number of their affiliated units is around thirty and they are not public authorities.
6. The aspect of fiduciary relationship was considered at some length by the Supreme Court of India in its judgment dated 9.8.2011 in Central Board of Secondary Education and Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors. In the above judgment, the Apex Court observed, inter alia, as follows:
“But the words `information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship' are used in section 8(1)(e) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; of RTI Act in its normal and well recognized sense, that is to refer to persons who act in a fiduciary capacity, with reference to a specific beneficiary or beneficiaries who are to be expected to be protected or benefited by the actions of the fiduciary a trustee with reference to the beneficiary of the trust, a guardian with reference to a minor/physically/infirm/mentally challenged, a parent with reference to a child, a lawyer or a chartered accountant with reference to a client, a doctor or nurse with reference to a patient, an agent with reference to a principal, a partner with reference to another partner, a director of a company with reference to a shareholder, an executor with reference to a legatee, a receiver with reference to the parties to a lis, an employer with reference to the confidential information relating to the employee, and an employee with reference to business dealings/transaction of the employer.”
It is clear that the relationship between BAI and its affiliated units is not the kind of relationship mentioned in the above observation of the Supreme Court. Further, the affiliated units, i.e. the State Associations are meant to promote the game of badminton in their respective states. Given the nature of their work, the rules and regulations governing their functioning should be a matter of public knowledge. Dissemination of the said rules is in this sense a matter of larger public interest. Therefore, the proposition, that copies of their rules and regulations furnished by them to BAI are held by the latter in a fiduciary capacity, does not stand to reason.
7. The Respondents did not make any submissions during the hearing to justify the stand of the FAA that disclosure of the information, sought by the Appellant, may affect the competitive position of the third party (affiliated units). Moreover, because of the very nature of work of the affiliated units, they cannot be described as commercial bodies. Therefore, there is no ground to justify the above position taken by the FAA in his reply dated 6.9.2013.
In its judgment dated 18.7.2013 in State Bank of India and Anr. Vs. Krishan Lal Mittal [W.P. (C) 1763/2012], the High of Delhi made the following observation:
“The correct approach, in my view, would have been to call upon the petitioner bank to satisfy the Commission as to how and to what extent the information sought by the petitioner, included matters of commercial confidence, trade secret or intellectual property of the petitioner the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party and then take a view in the matter.”
8. The Respondents also submitted during the hearing that their affiliated units amend their rules and regulations from time to time and, therefore, they (the Respondents) may have, on their records, the old versions of the said rules and regulations. They also stated that a good deal of their record was seized by the CBI in connection with some case and a new governing structure of BAI was elected in July 2011. The Respondents, therefore, submitted that their records may not have even the old versions of the rules and regulations, submitted by all the affiliated units.
9. The Appellant drew our attention to the Memorandum of the Badminton Association of India, particularly its following paragraphs:
Paragraph 4 (ii):
“to maintain general control of Badminton in India particularly with reference to the Rules and Regulations for the conduct of the games.”
Paragraph 14 (g):
(Executive Committee of BAI shall exercise the power) “to impose and enforce penalties for any violation of the Association Rules by affiliated units, officials and / or individuals.”
“14 (j) “To enforce standardisation of constitution of the affiliated units in line with the rules and bye laws of the Association except in respect of composition of the Executive Committee.”
“State Association shall apply to one of the Honorary General Secretary and shall send the amount of admission and affiliation fee to him / her with a copy of the rules and regulations, a list of office bearers and the list of Districts affiliated to it.”
(Affiliated units) “shall conform to the rules regulations and byelaws of the Association in force from time to time.”
10. It is evident from the above that BAI enforces standardization of constitution of the affiliated units in line with its rules and byelaws. Therefore, copies of the rules and regulations of such units should be available on its records. In the event that the same are not available on its records in respect of some affiliated units, it should be able to call for the same from the concerned units. In view of the foregoing, the information sought by the Appellant falls squarely within the ambit of “information” and “right to information” as defined in Section 2 (f) and (j) of the RTI Act, viz.; information which is held by or “can be accessed by a public authority” and information “which is held by or under the control of any public authority....”.
11. Taking the above into account, we direct the CPIO to provide to the Appellant such copies of the rules and regulations of the affiliated units of Badminton Association of India, as are available on the records of the public authority, within fifteen days of the receipt of this order, under intimation to the Commission. The CPIO is further directed to call for the copies of the rules and regulations from those affiliated units, in respect of which the said rules and regulations are not available on the records of the public authority, and provide copies of the same to the Appellant, within thirty working days of the receipt of this order, under intimation to the Commission. The CPIO is further directed to provide the above information free of cost.
12. With the above directions and observations, the appeal is disposed of.
13. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Shri S.P. Singh v. Badminton Association of India in File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/000022/SH