CIC Now Directs Hockey India To Be Transparent about Award Expenses
Earlier, the central information commission (CIC) had taken a stand that although Hockey India is a public authority under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, details of the appointment of its foreign chief executive officer (CEO) are top secret and hence, information cannot be disseminated to the RTI applicant.
 
Subsequently, though, Hockey India has been ordered to provide details of an assortment of expenses related to the Hockey India awards. Central information commissioner Saroj Punhani, who gave the earlier order of information rejection, this time observed that “the Commission is of the considered opinion that the RTI Act is meant to promote transparency and such type of information should be suo-moto disclosed by the public authority on their website.”
 
The central public information officer (CPIO) of Hockey India, Ranjit Gill, as well as its first appellate authority (FAA) had refused information to RTI activist Subhash Agrawal, who had sought the following information, which was denied under exemption clauses: Copies of complete file notings, correspondence and documents on selecting the venue for giving Hockey India awards from the date of the institution of the awards till date and; Head-wise detail year-wise on expenses made on functions to give Hockey India awards from the institution of these awards till date especially about expenses made towards venues of the functions held separately for different years. Information had been denied under the exemption clause of Sections 8(1)(j) and 8(1)(g) of the RTI Act.
 
Activist Mr Agrawal had got some information from the CPIO on his following RTI application:
 
Please provide me with complete and detailed information together with all related documents/ file notings/ correspondence, etc. on the under-mentioned aspects relating to Hockey India awards:
  • Complete information together with all related documents/ file notings/ correspondence, etc. on instituting Hockey India awards mentioning also when these awards were instituted
  • Are these awards given annually mentioning if these awards still exist
  • Years when these awards were not given after their being instituted
  • Names of those (year-wise) these awards were given till date mentioning also details of venues year-wise where these awards were given in the respective year
  • Names with designation or post of the chief guest year-wise invited for giving Hockey India awards from date of institution of awards till date
  • Copies of complete file notings, correspondence and documents on selecting the venue for giving Hockey India awards from the date of institution of awards till date
  • Head-wise detail year-wise on expenses made on functions to give Hockey India awards from institution of these awards till date especially about expenses made towards venues of the functions held separately for different years
  • Web link providing the above sought information
  • Any other related information
  • File notings on the movement of RTI application.
 
CIC Punhani directed the CPIO to provide this information for the period of 2014, 2015 and 2019 (the years when the award functions were held)  and directed him to invoke section 10 of the RTI Act for redacting the information related to the personal information of third parties, as the said provision states: Severability.—(1) Where a request for access to information is rejected on the ground that it is in relation to information which is exempt from disclosure, then, notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, access may be provided to that part of the record which does not contain any information which is exempt from disclosure under this Act and which can reasonably be severed from any part that contains exempt information….
 
CIC Punhani also stated that disclosure of information related to head-wise detail year-wise on expenses made on functions to give Hockey India awards would not harm “the commercial competitive position of the public authority.”
 
The CPIO, during the second hearing, argued that his office does not have any files regarding the selection of venues for the Hockey India awards but Ms Punhani would have none of this excuse. She insisted that “there must be some documents/ correspondence/ extracts, etc., with the public authority related to the said subject matter. Merely stating that ‘There is no separate file on the venue selection’ is not a ground for denial of information under the RTI Act.”
 
The CPIO provided Mr Agrawal with the address of the website which is:
https://www.hockeyindia.org/hall-of-fame/hockey-india-annual-awards. He also provided the name of the venue for the awards, which was Hotel The Lalit in New Delhi and Bangalore for different years and the names of the chief guests for different years. However, he had replied, “There is no separate file on the venue selection. It is part of the general organisation of the event. Details of the expenditure are exempt from disclosure under section 8(1)(d) and 8(1)(e) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 as the information is of commercial confidence and also third-party information.”
 
Giving the case of CIC in Mr RA Singh v CPIO & senior superintendent of post offices, CIC/BS/A/2012/000911/3666, has observed as under, the CPIO of Hockey India argued that he cannot disclose details of expenditure of the award function by stating thus:
 
The CPIO (of the post office) stated that the information (viz. copy of the lease agreement entered into with the landlord) is a confidential document relating to a third party and if disclosed would put the post office at a disadvantage in protecting its commercial and competitive interest and should, therefore, not be disclosed. He pointed out that the rentals are high and there is keen competition for space particularly for strategically located premises and any disclosure of such information would be detrimental to their commercial interest. He further stated that the information relates to a third party and no bonafide public interest has been shown by the appellant to justify its disclosure and contended the information is exempt under section 8(1)(d)&() of the RTI Act. 
 
The CIC in the post office case had then observed that “The submissions of the CPIO are logical and cannot be faulted. Post offices are operating as commercial entities and there is keen competition for space and the disclosure of such contracts viz. lease agreements which have commercial bearing must be treated with utmost caution. Besides the information relates to a third party and no bonafide public interest has been cited by the appellant to justify its disclosure…In the above circumstances, we are unable to provide any relief.”
 
CIC Punhani scuttled this argument of the CPIO of Hockey India and has compelled him to provide information.
 
Last fortnight, Mr Agrawal made an official complaint to the chief central information commissioner that Hockey India has not yet complied with CIC Punhani’s order.
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also the convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain Award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book "To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte" with Vinita Kamte and is the author of "The Mighty Fall".)
Comments
Array
Free Helpline
Legal Credit
Feedback