A full bench of the Central Information Commission will hear a case on whether the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) can be made accountable under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Acting on a petition filed on June 6 by RTI activist Madhu Agrawal, the CIC has issued a notice to the BCCI regarding the hearing to be held here on Thursday and Friday.

“Matter of bringing BCCI under the purview of RTI Act is of utmost national importance when BCCI conducts cricket matches with teams controlled by it named as ‘Indian team’ getting all types of recognition and facilities from the Union and State governments,” said Ms Agrawal in her petition.

“With so much notoriety induced in cricket politics involving BCCI and Indian Premier League like match-fixing and role of black money in IPL, public money earned by BCCI through people’s craze for cricket like a ‘religion,’ larger national and public interest demands BCCI to be covered by the RTI Act,” the petition added.

A Supreme Court bench, including Justice N. Santosh Hegde, had held (in the case in which Zee Telefilms challenged BCCI cancelling its telecast bid) in February 2005 that BCCI was not a ‘State’ under Article 12 of the Constitution.

The Bench had said that merely because a non-governmental body like the Board exercised some public duty, that by itself would not be sufficient to make such a body a ‘State’ for the purpose of Article 12 of the Constitution.

But Justice Hegde himself told The Week magazine in an interview recently that “My judgment does not totally exclude it [BCCI] from the purview of the government.”

He also said in the same interview, “I certainly believe there should be some control over the BCCI. It has become a fiefdom of a few people, politicians and bureaucrats.”

The BCCI has been arguing that since it is not a ‘State,’ it will not come under the RTI Act. It is also arguing that since it is not taking any financial grant from the Government, it will not come under the proposed National Sports Development Bill.

The draft Sports Bill, for which the Union Sports Ministry is seeking public opinion in order to make it more effective, proposes to bring all National Sports Federations (NSFs) under the RTI Act.

The draft Bill also requires the NSFs to comply with its Chapter IV (Unethical Practices in Sports) and Chapter IX (Applicability of RTI) in order to use ‘India’ or ‘Indian’ while fielding a team in international events. However, there is ambiguity in the draft Bill as it — in concurrence with international practice and the Olympic Charter — also says that recognition of an NSF is dependent upon recognition from respective international federation and/or the National Olympic Committee.

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