Terming as “unacceptable excuse” the denial of details on complimentary passes for hockey matches, the Central Information Commission has directed Hockey India to put in public domain such information in the interest of transparency and prevention of corruption, an official order said.
It has also asked the authority concerned to provide details whether any spouse of the playing team member was in the management of Hockey India or Hockey India League “to rule out the possibility of conflict of interest”, PTI reported.
Hockey India acts as the governing body to promote and encourage hockey in the country. It receives funds from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports Sports Authority of India for participation of Indian teams in international tournaments towards boarding, lodging, air tickets, field charges, local transport, visa fee and medical insurance.
Hockey India League, which is also known as Coal India Hockey India League, does not receive any government funding, according to its website and the CIC’s order.
RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal had in 2015 filed an RTI application with Hockey India, seeking details on commission or other monetary benefits having been paid to get sponsors for HIL matches, and on the system of distribution of free complimentary tickets/passes for different types of matches, among others.
Some parts of the the information sought by the appellant was denied by the Central Public Information Officer. Aggrieved over the response, Agrawal had filed first appeal with the body which was also declined. He then moved the Commission in October 2015 which heard the matter on different occasions.
The final order was passed by the CIC on Thursday, nearly after three years of filing the Right To Information application. With regard to the information on complimentary passes, the Hockey India had invoked section 8(1) (d) of the RTI Act – that bars disclosure of information including those of commercial confidence and trade secret – among others.
The Commission finds the contention that even complimentary tickets permitted to sponsors as ‘confidential’ with competitive commercial element is absolutely ‘baseless’ and reflects the intention of the HI not to give any bit of information about the favours they are doling out to their favourites, it said.
“Especially when the HI and HIL are not inviting sponsors openly, but confined to a limited or single most choice through a marketing agent, the competitive commercial interest question does not arise at all. This is an unacceptable excuse for which clause 8(1)(d) cannot be invoked,” the order said.
Hence, the Commission directs the respondent authority to put in public domain, every time when they permit the complimentary passes for the hockey matches, in the interest of transparency and prevention of corruption along with a detailed break up of distribution of complementary passes, the order said.
“The people have a right to know for each match how many complimentaries are given, and whether anybody is making any money over distribution of those complimentary passes. The Commission feels that the HI has to give the break up and other details of the complimentary passes for each sponsor in each match also,” it said in its November 8 order.
The CIC has also asked the respondent to provide revised information pertaining to rules/norms relating the fee to be paid by the public authority to their counsel, to the appellant, within seven days from the date of receipt of this order, it added.