RTI row hots up as HCA refuses to change stand

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Giving a fresh twist to the raging RTI war between the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) and Andhra Pradesh Information Commission (APIC), the former has now dismissed an order issued by the latter as “bogus” and “absurd”.
The order, dispatched on May 25, categorically states that the association falls under the ambit of the Right to Information Act, 2005 – thus putting an end to more than a year-long battle between the two parties. The HCA, however, has refused to fall in line.

In fact, when contacted, HCA president, Arshad Ayub, denied even receiving a copy of the order. “We have not got any directive from the APIC.It is clearly a prank being played by someone. The order is bogus and manipu lated,” Ayub said. This, even as TOI accessed a copy of the same from the Infor mation Com missioner’s office. In the `Show Cause Notice Order’ – which faults HCA for not furnishing information to an RTI applicant – state information commissioner P Vijaya Babu has stated: “…it is an undisputed fact that Hyderabad Cricket Association, Visakha Ground, Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Uppal, Hyderabad, built in the prime 25 acres of land had been given by the state government on paltry lease of Rs 25 lakh per annum. The fact remains that the said stadium was built on public land and services of various departments including police and municipality are being utilized for the smooth conduct of cricket match…I hold that the PIO, HCA is public authority”.

Further condemning the PIO, Babu also imposed a pen alty of Rs 25,000 on the PIO Secretary , which he stated, “shall be deducted from the June 2015 salary”.

The RTI war first came to light in September 2013 when Kanchanbag resident Mahesh Mamindla approached APIC after being denied information by the HCA. He had reportedly sought information on land allotments and incentives that the HCA received from the government. The association, however, refused to respond insisting that it was a “society” and was, therefore, exempt from the RTI Act. Multiple hearings and adjournments later, the APIC finally pronounced its judgment in April this year.

“It is astonishing to see HCA refusing to honour a constitutional body . Going by Section 2(h) of the Act, the a s s o c i at i o n clearly is public authority .Its refusal to abide by the order only exposes its arrogance and sheer lack of respect for the law of the land,” an enraged Babu said, and urged the gov ernment to intervene in the matter at the earliest.

“The HCA can approach the high court now and get a stay on our order. It is thus the state government’s prerogative to stop it from disrespecting the APIC. The chief secretary should take matters in his hand and force the HCA to abide by the order, failing which the association land should be taken away by the government,” Babu added.

RTI activists from the city, however, toed a different line of argument. While terming the HCA’s attitude as “ridiculous”, C J Karira said: “The commission should now approach a judicial magistrate and get a FIR registered against HCA officials for disobeying an order promulgated by a public servant. That’s the only way to nail them.”

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