Board told to put in place mechanism to receive RTI pleas within 30 days
In a major development, the Central Information Commission has held that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is a public authority under the RTI Act and should be listed as a National Sports Federation (NSF) under the Act.
“The Commission….holds BCCI as the public authority under RTI Act and directs the President, Secretary and Committee of Administrators to designate deserving officers as Central Public Information Officers, Central Assistant Public Information Officers and First Appellate Authorities and put in place a system of online and offline mechanisms to receive the applications for information under RTI Act to respond them as early as possible but not later than 30 days from the date of application for information, immediately within 15 days,” ordered CIC M Sridhar Acharyulu.
The Commission said BCCI should be listed as a National Sports Federation (NSF) covered under the RTI Act, as proposed by the Law Commission of India.
“The RTI Act should be made applicable to BCCI along with its entire constituent member cricketing associations, provided they fulfill the criteria applicable to BCCI, as discussed in the Law Commission’s Report. The LCI stated that non-consideration of the role played by the BCCI as monopolistic in regulation of the game of cricket has resulted in the board “flying under the radar of public scrutiny, encouraged an environment of opacity and non-accountability”. In the absence of effective self-regulation and non-applicability of public law to scrutinize and review the functioning of the sports body, the necessity of public scrutiny arose and only way for that is through RTI Act,” noted Prof Acharyulu.
The CIC noted that, “The SC has also reaffirmed that BCCI is the ‘approved’ national level body holding virtually monopoly rights to organize cricketing events in the country”.
Prof Acharyulu said, “The Supreme Court on May 2, 2016 said that it wants all state cricket associations to “fall in line” with the suggestions made by the Justice RM Lodha led-panel on structural reforms in the Board of Control for Cricket in India which was carried out in the wake of match-fixing and spot-fixing allegations. It will no longer remain just recommendations if we say it has to be implemented. It was called recommendations as some of the findings of the committee were implemented by BCCI during the deliberations itself and some were not implemented…”
He went on to add, “The BCCI should have been held accountable under all circumstances, for any violations of basic human rights of the stakeholders. As on today there is no mechanism to question such violations, except filing a general writ petition in Constitutional Courts.”
The CIC so held in second appeal moved by Geeta Rani who had sought information about provision/guidelines under which the BCCI has been representing India and selecting players for the country.
By way of 12 pointed questions, the applicant sought to know whether the players selected by BCCI are playing for India or BCCI, how can BCCI (a private association) represent India in national/international cricket tournaments, what is the benefit of the Indian Government to give rights/authority to BCCI to represent India in Domestic and International Tournament etc.
The CPIO replied on 14.12.2017 that the information is not available with the undersigned CPIO and BCCI has not been declared as public authority, hence RTI application could not be transferred to BCCI. The appellant filed the first appeal and the first appellate authority upheld the decision of CPIO. Dissatisfied, the appellant approached the CIC.
The CIC traced developments in the cricket world and how the role of BCCI came under focus post the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scam with Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee speaking against interference from BCCI in probing sporting fraud besides other recommendations.
The commission also noted that accepting most of the recommendations of Justice Mudgal, the Supreme Court appointed Justice RM Lodha Committee for more stringent regulation of BCCI.
In the case of BCCI vs. Cricket Association of Bihar & Ors., the Supreme Court noted that “BCCI does discharge several important public functions which make it amenable to the writ jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Under Para 30 of the order, it observed that the majority view favour that BCCI is amenable to the writ jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 even when it is not “State” within the meaning of Article 12. The rationale underlying that view if we may say with utmost respect lies in the ‘nature’ of duties and functions which the BCCI performs. It is common ground that the respondent-Board has a complete say over the game of cricket in this country. It regulates and controls the game to the exclusion of all others. It formulates rules, regulations norms and standards covering all aspects of the game etc. All these activities are undertaken with the tacit concurrence of the State Government and the Government of India who are not only fully aware but supportive of the activities of the Board.”
Prof Acharyulu also noted that the Law Commission of India “not only affirmatively recognised the economic (“monopoly”) nature of the BCCI acting as a sports federation for cricket but also went further to outline the power and ability of such a body to impact the human rights of athletes and potential athletes. Previously, most similar attempts at legal analysis have primarily relied on whether or not the body is funded by the state and/or uses stage insignia and names. While state funding is indeed one of the elements in determining whether a non-government organisation is a “public authority” the economic and human rights impact of the body’s powers are dominant themes of the Report and its recommendations. This represents a broader and more contemporary view of the jurisprudence backing the application of public laws to prima facie ‘private’ bodies in sport”.
“The Law Commission considered various other factors also, they are: (a) Usage of national tricolours on the uniform of Indian cricket team (as selected by BCCI) and the Ashok Chakra on their helmets. (b) BCCI nominates cricketers for the Arjuna Awards. (c) Though Parliament proposed a Bill, it did not go further to make sports law on national sports federations such as BCCI. Similarly the State Legislatures chose not to enact a legislation to govern the sport of cricket. This amounts to tacit recognition afforded to BCCI,” he said.
Referring to the views of the Supreme Court in case titled Thalappalam Service Cooperative Bank Ltd & others v. State of Kerala & others, the CIC quoted, “The burden to show that a body is owned, controlled or substantially financed or that a non-government organization is substantially financed directly or indirectly by the funds provided by the appropriate Government is on the applicant who seeks information or the appropriate Government and can be examined by the State Information Commission or the Central Information Commission as the case may be, when the question comes up for consideration. A body or NGO is also free to establish that it is not owned, controlled or substantially financed directly or indirectly by the appropriate Government.”
Considering the issues raised in the second appeal, the law laid down by the Supreme Court, the detailed report of Law Commission of India, the submissions of CPIO of Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, the CIC held that “the status nature and functional characteristics of BCCI fulfil required conditions of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act (defining as to what is a public authority)”.
Board told to put in place mechanism to receive RTI pleas within 30 days