The Madras High Court has stayed the Central Information Commission's (CIC) proceedings on whether the Indian board is a public authority. The stay was granted by Justice KK Sasidharan while making an interim judgement on a BCCI petition challenging the CIC proceedings.
During the appeal for a stay, the board's counsel argued that the CIC had issued the notice on July 10 though two earlier orders, passed in 2008 and 2011, had clearly held that BCCI was not a "public authority" under section 2(h) of the RTI Act and therefore was under no obligation to provide any information.
The CIC, the government's information watchdog, had sought financial details of the Indian board and its 29 member associations and started a two-day hearing against the BCCI on Thursday. The CIC was formed to bring more transparency to the working of India's public institutions by looking into petitions from the public under the country's relatively new Right to Information Act.
The CIC's issuing of a notice to the BCCI was 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 actions came after a Delhi resident Madhu Agrawal filed a petition asking for information on financial dealings the BCCI and its member associations had with the government over the past five years.
The BCCI challenged the petition in court arguing that it did not come under the purview of the RTI Act as it did not receive any financial assistance from the government and was not a 'public authority'.
Ratnakar Shetty, the BCCI's (Game Development) manager, cited three previous Supreme Court rulings in which the BCCI was deemed an autonomous body, and said the CIC's move was "totally without jurisdiction". He also questioned the procedure the CIC followed, calling it "wholly illegal" as only the board's 29 affiliates were informed about the hearing and not the board or its members. (In fact, the board was mentioned in the CIC notice.)
In Delhi, the CIC's hearing was attended by a BCCI lawyer and representatives from five state cricket associations - Baroda, Bengal, Delhi, Himachal and Punjab. The hearing lasted only a few minutes as when asked to present its reply, the BCCI informed the CIC bench that it had obtained a stay on the petition from the Madras High Court. It is learnt that the stay was obtained late on Wednesday afternoon. Also present at the venue was former India cricketer and Member of Parliament Kirti Azad who called the proceedings a "mockery of justice."