RTI exemption: BCCI may be on a weak wicket by Himanshi Dhawan
Did the Supreme Court confirm that sports bodies selecting national teams were public authorities? At least the people opposing the move appear to think so. Minutes of anIndian Olympic Association (IOA) meeting in May 2011 -- accessed through RTI -- suggest that the members were informed of the SC order and were studying the contents.
The interpretation could have a bearing on the Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) case before the Central Information Commission (CIC) where the former has argued against its inclusion under the Right to Information Act.
BCCI has said that it is not a public authority since it does not get funds from the government. However, the sports ministry had responded to this contention saying that BCCI was receiving benefits like exemptions in customs duty and was seen as a national sports body.
The minutes of the May 2011 meeting headed by acting president V K Malhotra said, "SC in a case filed by the Kerala cricket association has declared all the national sports bodies as public authorities hence all office-bearers will now be deemed as public servants. In the judgment, the court has pronounced that any organization which selects team for the country will be considered as public authority."
The members said the contents of the judgment were being studied to see if it suited the IOA's stand. The IOA's response was to an RTI query filed by activist S C Agrawal seeking to know details of the association's meetings held in the absence of former IOA president Suresh Kalmadi.
The members appeared concerned over the draft sports bill that among other provisions also recommends that sports bodies should be brought under the RTI Act.
IOA secretary general Randhir Singh said, "Though the government through the recent statements indicated that it will not be rigid now and is willing to accommodate the concern of sports bodies, but we have to make them understand that our day to day functioning gets hampered with such things as grant of recognition annually to the national federations and IOA, we cannot keep on reporting to the government minute to minute basis regarding our programme and activities. Moreover, with additional responsibilities of RTI, the work of most of the sports bodies has already increased manifold as they have to comply with the RTI requirement and replies."