India news July 24, 2013

CIC issues formal notice to BCCI

Jasvinder Sidhu

India's Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the BCCI and all its 29 member units for details about the land and buildings occupied by them, including information on stadiums allotted by state governments, the annual rent paid by the BCCI, and its units and copies of lease deeds as part of their agreement. The Information Commissioner has constituted a full bench of the CIC to hear the case on July 25 and 26 in New Delhi.

The CIC is a government body formed to effectively shed light on the working of India's traditionally opaque public institutions by entertaining petitions from the public under the country's relatively new Right to Information Act (RTI); a ruling earlier this month sought to bring political parties within its purview. Under the law, the Central and State Information Commissions have the same powers as a civil court.

The CIC's issuing of a notice to the BCCI is yet another step by the Indian government to establish the BCCI as a public body. The BCCI is currently registered as a private society. In its notice, dated July 10, the CIC has directed the BCCI and all of its affiliated units to attend the hearing either personally or through authorised representatives.

The CIC's deputy registrar K L Dass, who is the signatory on the notice to the BCCI, said: "The question here is whether the BCCI is a public authority or not and [to this end] the CIC wants to check if the BCCI is getting any government funding? This is why [the] CIC has asked the BCCI and its units to provide details."

The CIC has also instructed the BCCI and its member units to provide information regarding income tax, customs duty, entertainment tax exemptions, if any, for the last five years from the 2007-08 fiscal year. The full bench is also expected to examine the security expenses incurred by states government for organising cricket matches during the same period.

The petitioner, Delhi resident Madhu Agrawal, says that bringing the BCCI under the RTI Act is a matter of national importance because the BCCI conducts cricket matches with various teams under their purview, and utilises facilities offered by the federal and state governments.

Agrawal's petition is a redrafted version of an existing petition filed by her husband Subhash Agrawal, a well-known RTI activist. That petition is pending before a one-member bench of the CIC. Agrawal told ESPNcricinfo that it was filed in his wife's name because RTI rules give priority to petitions filed by women senior citizens - a full bench of the CIC is required to take up such cases "sooner than any other case."

The CIC has also been hearing a petition against the BCCI, following a 2005 case concerning its public function. The BCCI has submitted a copy of the Supreme Court's judgment of 2005 in the Zee Telefilms v Union of India & others, which said the BCCI was not defined as a 'state'. The BCCI also argued it didn't take any financial help from the Indian Government. In February, 2011 though, the Supreme Court upheld a Kerala High Court decision and stated that officials of the Kerala Cricket Association are 'public servants'.

Jasvinder Sidhu is a freelance journalist based in New Delhi