As the sports bill goes back to the drawing board after a war of words between Cabinet ministers on Monday, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has decided to review on October 4 its earlier decision to exempt the cricket board from the provisions of the RTI law.
The Cabinet had asked sports minister Ajay Maken to redraft the bill to remove "intrusive" provisions which included making RTI application to the cricket board, which does not receive any direct funding from the government. The draft law had attempted to bring transparency and accountability among sporting federations, especially the BCCI.
The same question has come up again before the CIC as two RTI applicants had challenged refusal of information by BCCI to over 37 questions related to recent ICC World Cup, money paid to players and coaches and earning of the board through conduct of matches. Questions were also asked about the board giving money for renovation of the Constitution Club run by MPs.
The BCCI did not respond to the applications and told the CIC that it does not come under the RTI as it receives no funding from the government and per the commission's earlier order a few years ago.
"The BCCI is not a public authority in terms of section 2 (h) of the RTI Act and, therefore, is not liable to respond to any RTI applications," said R S Shetty, the board's Chief Administrative Officer.
Rahul Verma, lawyer for the RTI applications, demanded that the board should be declared as a public authority under the transparency law as it received substantial indirect benefits from the government.
"BCCI has been using various cricket stadia of the government all over the country, virtually, free of cost, or at marginal cost which amounts to substantial financing by the government," he said.
Section 2 (h) of the law says that any private body of NGO which received direct or indirect funding from the government is a public authority for the purpose of the RTI law.
Amit Sibal appearing for BCCI opposed Mehra citing the Supreme Court judgment in Zee Teleflim cases. Mehra, however, said the case does not come under the rescue of BCCI as it was not decided under the provisions of the RTI Act.
Information Commission M L Sharma termed the issue as complex and is likely to refer the matter to a larger bench to take a considered view. The next hearing of the appeal will be on October 4, when the commission is expected to deliver its verdict. It would be approximately the same time when the Sports ministry will be redrafting the law as per the Cabinet's decision.