The Delhi High Court today refused to stay an order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) directing Hockey India to disclose certain information, including list of its members and employee salaries under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Justice Rekha Palli observed that Hockey India, which is a National Sports Federation (NSF) and a public authority, cannot shy away from disclosing such information even when the salaries of judges are also known to everyone.
Prima facie I really don't see what is wrong with the CIC order. You are a public authority, you can't shy away from disclosing salaries of employees, no matter how high or low it is. When our salaries are known to everybody then what is the problem in the salaries of your employees. You are a public authority which is getting so much of aid, benefits and funds, the Judge said, adding that she was not inclined to stay the CIC order at this stage.
The central government also supported the December 13, 2021 order of the CIC saying it was in consonance with the National Sports Code and the guidelines of the Centre.
Senior Advocate Sachin Dutta and Standing Counsel Anil Soni, representing the Centre, said that the NSF even needs to furnish this information to the government and under the RTI Act, this information does not come under the category of confidential information which is exempted.
The Centre's counsel sought time to file an affidavit before the Court in this regard.
The Court granted 5 days time to the Centre to file the affidavit and listed the matter for further hearing on January 20.
Hockey India has challenged the CIC's December 13, 2021 order directing it to provide under the RTI the complete list of its members with their designation and official addresses, names of its employees along with their pay, and gross income.
The commission had also directed the NSF to give information pertaining to monthly rents paid by it at each of the addresses since the date of occupation and information relating to monetary transactions like cash withdrawals and fund transfer to bank accounts in foreign countries.
The petitioner claimed that the CIC order was patently illegal, arbitrary, unreasoned and passed in violation of settled principles of law and that it was contrary to section 8(1) of the RTI Act which related to exemption given from disclosing information.
Advocate Shyel Trehan, appearing for Hockey India, said the NSF was not shying away from furnishing the information to the Centre but disclosing these details to the Centre and an RTI applicant were different.
She said if the sports body complies with the CIC order, the petition will become infructuous and if it does not comply with it within the time limit then penalty will be imposed on it along with disciplinary action against its officials.
The plea said the CIC order was received by the petitioner only on December 29, 2021 and it was directed to supply the information within 15 days which expires on January 14 and file a compliance report within 7 days thereafter.
The main petition and stay application are pending before the Court.
The plea was vehemently opposed by Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra and lawyer R Arunadhri Iyer, representing RTI applicant Subhash Chandra Agrawal, saying that this information was already required to be disclosed by every NSF to the Centre as per the National Sports Code.
The Court had on January 12, said in view of the submission made on behalf of the RTI applicant, it was necessary to know the stand of the Centre and allowed the petitioner to implead the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs as a party to the petition.
The petition sought to quash the CIC order and to restrain the authorities from proceeding with or acting upon the December 13, 2021 order.
Hockey India has been granted recognition by the central government, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, as the NSF.
With PTI inputs