The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked Hockey India to furnish to it in a sealed cover the information directed to be disclosed by the Central Information Commission under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, including details of members and employee salaries. Justice V Kameswar Rao, while dealing with Hockey India’s challenge to the CIC direction on disclosure, clarified that such submission shall not discharge the sports body’s obligation to comply with the order passed by the Commission on December 13.
The judge granted permission to the petitioner to file its rejoinder in the matter and said that he was “not saying anything” on the aspect of interim relief.
“Whatever you want to comply, comply. I’m not saying rest. Let the position of law follow. I’m keeping the matter for hearing,” said the court which listed the case next for April 8.
“It is directed that Ms Trehan (counsel for petitioner) shall produce information on the next date of hearing in a sealed cover. It is clarified that this production shall not disclose to the petitioner of its obligation to comply with the order of the CIC,” the court ordered.
On January 13, the court had refused to stay, at this stage, the CIC order directing Hockey India to disclose the information, saying that being a National Sports Federation (NSF) and a public authority, the petitioner cannot shy away from disclosing such information even when the salaries of judges are also known to everyone.
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.
Senior advocate Sachin Datta, representing the Centre, said that the petitioner cannot shy away from disclosing the information, as directed by CIC, as it is a public authority.
The Central government had earlier told the court that CIC order was in consonance with the National Sports Code and the guidelines of the Centre.
Lawyer Shyel Trehan, appearing for the petitioner, contended that there was no “overriding public interest” to warrant the disclosure of information under question and the same can be supplied in a sealed cover for the satisfaction of the court.
She said that the petitioner has no objection to disclosing some of the information in terms of the CIC order, such as the complete list of its members, official addresses etc.
Senior lawyer Rahul Mehra, appearing for the RTI applicant Subhash Chandra Agrawal, stated that Hockey India was performing public duties and was thus duty-bound to disclose the information in the CIC order.
The petitioner has 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.
It has claimed that 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.
Earlier, senior advocate Rahul Mehra and lawyer R Arunadhri Iyer had vehemently opposed the petitioner on behalf of the RTI applicant, saying that the information in question was already required to be disclosed by every NSF to the Centre as per the National Sports Code.
Hockey India has been granted recognition by the central government, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, as the NSF.
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