Hearing on the BCCI case adjourned by the CIC
Madhuri Agarwal, a Delhi-based RTI applicant had sent a query to Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) seeking information like particulars and names of office-bearers, facilities provided by the government, details of payment made to the government in the last five years, security expenses for cricket matches, customs duty and income tax paid in the last five years etc. On the failure of the BCCI to provide the information, she moved to the Central Information Commission (CIC).
Notices had been issued to the BCCI and all its 29 affiliates from across the country by the CIC to appear and bring the details of land, buildings, stadiums allotted by government, income tax exemptions and other benefits availed by them. The hearing on the case by a full bench of the CIC regarding whether the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is a public authority under Right to Information (RTI) Act could not be held as BCCI obtained a stay from the Madras High Court. The two day hearing which was scheduled to be begin on 25.07.2013 has now been adjourned indefinitely pending vacation of stay or issue of an appropriate order from the higher bench of the High Court / Supreme Court. The hearing was planned to be held in the conference hall instead of the regular court room in view of the large number of respondents.
Justice K K Sasidharan of the Madras High Court granted the interim injunction on Wednesday, after BCCI counsel argued that even though two earlier orders had clearly held that BCCI was not a 'public authority' within the meaning of Section 2(h) “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted (a) by or under the Constitution; (b) by any other law made by Parliament; (c) by any other law made by State Legislature; (d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any- (i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) non-Government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government; of the RTI Act, the CIC had issued the notice on July 10 to be present for inquiry on July 25 and 26. The counsel claimed that “The notice has pre-judged the applicability of the RTI Act, despite earlier rulings of the commission itself”. The BCCI also claimed that it was not under any obligation to provide any information. The Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) also filed a similar petition and obtained a stay on the operation of the CIC notice.
It has been alleged that the BCCI conducts cricket matches under the banner of ‘Indian team’ getting all types of recognition and facilities from Union and state governments while there is opacity in its working. It has been claimed that apart from performing ‘pubic function’, the BCCI is ‘substantially financed’ by the government.
The Supreme Court verdict in the Zee Telefilms case said writ petitions could be filed against it under Article 226 of the Constitution as it performed “public functions”. The Constitution bench said, "It is clear that when a private body exercises public functions, the aggrieved person has a remedy not only under the ordinary law but also under the Constitution, by way of a writ petition under Article 226".
A bill has been drafted by the government which prescribes that all sports federations would be covered under the ambit of the RTI Act and no sports body can any longer have a right to represent India in international events unless the sports ethics RTI Act are adopted by it.