The Delhi High Court on Thursday refused to stay an order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) which allowed a petitioner to get to know the financial records and salaries of members and staff of Hockey India through the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Noting that Hockey India, a public authority cannot be shy away from disclosing such information, Justice Rekha Palli said even 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 the salaries of employees, no matter how high or low it is. When our salaries are known to everybody then what is the problem with the salaries of your employees. You are a public authority which is getting so much of aid, benefits, and funds," the court said.
Senior advocate Sachin Dutta and standing counsel Anil Soni, appearing on behalf of the Centre, backed the sports body stating it was in consonance with the National Sports Code and the guidelines of the Centre. On their prayer to grant more time to file an affidavit in the matter, the court allowed five days' time. The further hearing will continue on January 20.
Opposing the CIC order allowing an RTI plea seeking various information on the financial details of Hockey India, including records of fund transfer to bank accounts in foreign countries, the governing body of the game in the country on Wednesday challenged the December 13 CIC order before the Delhi High Court.
In the plea moved by the apex hockey body, it was stated that Subhash Aggarwal had sought information through RTI with regard to salary and address of employees of Hockey India, monthly rent details of its premises taken on lease, signatories of bank accounts, records relating to funding transfer by the Hockey India to bank accounts in foreign countries and information on its cash withdrawals.
The petition stated that CIC suffers from "complete non-application of mind', in as much as the same is wholly arbitrary, contrary to statute, and contrary to the law laid down by this court and its own judgments".
The plea further said: "There is no discernible public interest that could override the exemptions of the information as sought. It is also pertinent to mention herein that the annual accounts of the petitioner are already published on its website and the petitioner is duly audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India."
The overall accounts of the petitioner, including the heads of expenditure, income, cash flow etc., are all part of the petitioner's accounts which are already available to the public on the website of Hockey India at www.hockeyindia.org and may be available to the RTI activist."The information that is subject to disclosure under the RTI Act has already been disclosed by the CPIO of the respondent, it said.
"There is no overriding public interest, which warrants the disclosure of information, which is otherwise exempt from disclosure under the RTI Act under Sections 8( 1 )(d), 8( 1 )(e) and 8(1)(j) of the Act," stated the plea.
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