The Madras High Court has granted an interim stay of all further proceedings pursuant to a notice issued by the Central Information Commission (CIC), New Delhi, of July 10 calling upon the BCCI to attend a hearing on July 25 and 26. The Commission had also directed the board to send written representation to the Commission containing certain information sought for by an RTI applicant.

Justice K.K. Sasidharan passed the interim order on a writ petition by the BCCI, having its office at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here. He ordered notice to the CIC and the RTI applicant returnable by August 20. He granted the interim stay.

In the petition, the Manager (Game Development), BCCI, Ratnakar S. Shetty, said the RTI Act clearly did not encompass private bodies which did not fall within the meaning of the definition of “public authority.” The board was not a public authority. The Supreme Court had already clearly held that the board did not enjoy any financial support from the government and was not subject to the government’s superintendence. The court had also held that the board was an autonomous body.

In these circumstances, the board received an application dated June 6 from one Madhu Agrawal of Delhi seeking information pertaining to various issues, including third party information such as the list of organisations affiliated to BCCI with particulars and complete information regarding the government provided facilities to each of them with details of payment made to the government in the last five years.

The board did not have any obligation to provide the information. Apparently, the applicant filed a complaint before the CIC. The Commission issued the impugned notice dated July 10. Aggrieved, the board moved the High Court.

The board said having already been decided twice that it did not fall within the RTI Act, the CIC could not issue the notice. The petitioner did not fit into the category of “public authority.” The notice disclosed a clear pre-disposition to reopen the settled law in relation to the applicability of the Act to the petitioner.

Unless the petitioner was deemed amenable to the Act, the question of providing such information to the respondents would not arise. The CIC had absolutely no jurisdiction to direct the petitioner to provide the information sought for.

Our Principal Correspondent from New Delhi adds:

Following the stay order, the CIC on Thursday adjourned a hearing as to whether the BCCI could be made accountable under the RTI Act. Acting on the petition filed by Ms. Agrawal, the CIC had issued notices to the BCCI and its 29 affiliated units to appear for hearing before a three-member Full Bench.

In its notice, the CIC had asked the BCCI and its units to provide information on land and buildings (including stadia) allotted by the State governments concerned, annual rents being paid by (any) State cricket association, copies of lease deeds, estimated market rentals, income tax, customs duty and entertainment tax exemptions if any (from 2007 to 2012) and security expenses incurred by State governments for organising cricket matches.

As the proceedings began, the BCCI counsel, who was accompanied by lawyers of five State cricket associations (Delhi, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Bengal and Baroda), pointed out that the hearing could not be held since the Board had got a stay order from the Madras HC. Mishra adjourned the proceedings after seeing the order. “Due to the stay order, we cannot proceed,” he said.

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