Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Hockey India evading RTI queries, citing exceptions mentioned in Act

Indian courts have repeatedly observed that sports federations are public bodies which fall within the ambit of the RTI Act and should encourage transparency. Yet, Hockey India steadfastly refuses to provide information regarding the hosting of the Hockey India Awards and the appointment procedure, role and duties of its CEO
October 31, 2023

Hockey India has refused to share details about expenses related to its award functions over the years and with regard to its CEO’s duties, responsibilities, powers, and remuneration, according to an RTI activist.

In his RTI application, lawyer Subhash Chandra Aggrawal included a question on the “head-wise detail year-wise on expenses made on functions to give Hockey India awards from institution of these awards till date specially about expenses made towards venues of the functions held separately for different years”.

In response to this particular query, Hockey India said, “The information is exempt from disclosure under Section 8(1)(d) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 as the information is of commercial confidence and also third-party information.”

In a separate application, among other queries, Aggrawal sought to know “complete information together with file notings, correspondence, documents, etc. on [the] appointment of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Hockey India mentioning name, nationality, monetary and other benefits available to the CEO. Please also mention if any amount is paid to CEO in foreign currency or fund-transfer to some foreign bank-account”.

The next question asked for outlining of the “duties, responsibilities, powers, and other rights given to CEO at Hockey India also enclosing contract, agreement etc, if any, signed between CEO and Hockey India”.

The reply to these two were, respectively: “The information sought is of commercial confidence and pertains to third party, hence the information sought cannot be provided under section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act, 2005 as salaries are considered personal information”; and “The information sought is of personal in nature hence the information sought cannot be provided under section 8 (1) (j) and (d) of the RTI Act, 2005”.

Not that there is any doubt over the CEO’s capabilities, but Hockey India has been declared a public authority under the Right to Information Act, 2005, by the High Court of Delhi in 2010, and it has an RTI Cell to deal with applications seeking information.

India has won the men’s hockey Asia Cup and secured a spot at the World Cup in Oman next year. The women’s team claimed the bronze medal at the just-concluded Asian Games 2023 in Hangzhou, China.

In November 2022, Hockey India’s annual report, on page 115, congratulated its CEO “on receiving the FIH President’s award for her outstanding contribution to Hockey promotion and development in India and around the globe”.

Earlier, in October 2019, the sports body congratulated the CEO “on winning the Business Woman of the Year Award at the India Australia Business & Community Awards (IABCA) 2019 which is supported by Trade & Investment Queensland”.

Hockey India added that the award was given for “contribution as the Chief Executive Officer of Hockey India through which she has had an outstanding impact on the development and promotion of hockey within the country and beyond”. Regarding the annual awards given out by Hockey India, its officials shared only those that are available on its website.

Hockey India did not share file notings, correspondence, and documents related to selection of the venue for the Hockey India award function, saying “there is no separate file on the venue selection. It is part of general organization of the event”.

On October 16, the Central Information Commission (CIC) ordered: “Notwithstanding the foregoing observations, the Commission takes a liberal view in the matter on point no. 2 of the RTI application regarding “Duties, responsibilities, powers, and other rights given to CEO at Hockey India”, it is observed that it is a generic information which should have been also available in public domain and would also not affect the competitive position of the third party, therefore, in view of this, the Commission directs the respondent to re-visit point no. 2 of the RTI application as mentioned supra and give revised reply/information to the Appellant free of cost, as per the documents readily available in their records, within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of this order under due intimation to the Commission”.

Aggrawal had earlier expressed dissatisfaction with the reply provided by Hockey India over expenses made under particular heads every year for the awards event. On this issue the Commission said on October 16 that it is of the view “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 Commission further noted: “It is of the considered opinion that RTI Act is meant to promote transparency and such type of information should be suo motu disclosed….” Hockey India is yet to respond following the CIC’s order.

Jayanta Bhattacharya

Journalist. Curious about astronomy, cinema, communications, digital media, geostrategy, human rights, military, tech, and nature.