The state information commission (SIC), Punjab, has suggested a high-level probe into the dealings of the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) with the Punjab government.
The commission has made sharp observations in the course of hearing the issue whether the PCA is a public or a private body and whether it falls under the purview of the Right to Information Act.
The observations recorded by the SIC bench, comprising commissioners Chander Parkash and Harinder Pal Singh Mann, on November 5 say, “…a scam has taken place in leasing expensive piece of land and grants running into crores of rupees by different Punjab government departments to the PCA to construct a stadium carries credence as the management of the PCA and officers of different state government departments have failed to come out with proper replies to the queries raised by the bench on its last hearing on August 21, 2014.”
Accepting that it was not under the SIC purview to probe into the alleged scam, the bench inferred that it was a fit case to be probed by an independent agency.
In the course of hearing of the case, the PCA provided the information to the SIC that the land and grant for constructing the stadium was given by the state government in exchange of the spectator box free of charge and five pavilion and 50 complimentary passes of VIP block for every match, besides corporate membership and entitlement to use the club facilities for 10 senior officers of the housing board/PUDA without any charge.
“A section of senior functionaries of the state government have allowed the management of the PCA to loot expensive land and crores of rupees of the Punjab government for small benefits,” observed the SIC.
The next hearing in the case is fixed for December 24.
Genesis of case
The case began when in 2007 Anil Kashyap, a resident of Ludhiana, had sought information from the PCA about how they got land, and the state government aid, how much money the PCA earned and how this money was being spent.
The SIC inferred that the PCA was a public authority, but the latter approached the Punjab and Haryana high court, which vindicated the commission’s stand. The PCA further appealed before the double bench of the high court. Meanwhile, in a decision by the Supreme Court about the status of cooperative bodies, the matter was referred back to the SIC for having a fresh look.
On August 21, the SIC bench asked various departments to furnish replies to certain queries on the next hearing on November 5. The PCA chief executive officer (CEO) was directed to bring on record whether the PCA had moved a formal request of getting land for building the stadium to the Punjab Urban and Planning Development Authority (PUDA); the principal secretary, housing and urban development, was asked as to who had sanctioned Rs 11 crore grant given to the PCA; and the principal secretary, sports, was asked about the financial assistance given to the PCA by the department. The SIC had also asked the excise department about the tax exemptions given to the PCA and the Mohali tehsildar was asked to submit documents about the lease rent in Sectors 63/64 of Mohali in 1992. Interestingly, over 13.5 acre of land was allotted to the PCA at an annual per acre lease of Rs 100.
Except the Mohali tehsildar, who said there was no documentary evidence available, representatives of all other departments and the PCA sought adjournment in the case, when they appeared before the commission on the last hearing on November 5.