New Delhi: The Government has said that there are "just and reasonable grounds" for bringing Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
In a seven-page written statement submitted before the Central Information Commission, the Sports Ministry has said although there is no direct funding of the BCCI, it gets "substantial indirect funding" from the Government in the form of revenue forego like "concessions in income tax, customs duty etc." and lands at concessional rates for stadiums.
The Ministry also said BCCI is performing the functions "akin" to State and `public duties` by selecting national teams and representing India in international events.
Citing the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, the Ministry warned "since the name Board for Control of Cricket in India suggests patronage of the Government, the BCCI may have to drop the name `India` from its name in case they continue to act as `private body`."
"In the view of the above, the present position of the Government of India in this regard is that there exists just and reasonable grounds for the BCCI to be declared as a `public authority` under the Right to Information Act, 2005," the Ministry said.
Information Commissioner M L Sharma, while hearing plea of activist Subhash Agrawal and Alok Varshney, to bring BCCI under the ambit of the RTI Act, had directed the Sports Ministry to "submit a written statement indicating its position as to whether BCCI is a public authority in terms of section 2(h) of the RTI Act."
According to section 2(h) of the RTI Act even a non-Government organisation comes under the ambit of the transparency law if it is substantially financed, "directly or indirectly" by funds provided by the appropriate Government.
The Ministry said Central Government is not providing direct funding to BCCI. However, it has no information with regard to its state units with regards to funding from state governments.
On the question of indirect funding, the Ministry said, "The BCCI has been seeking Customs Duty/Income Tax and other exemptions from the Government and also land is allotted to its various affiliates at concessional rates by the State Government."
"As such BCCI is getting indirect funding from the Government/state governments. While for organisation of an event, all civic and security services are provided/arranged by the Central or concerned State governments. Even in case some amount is charged from the organisers, the hidden costs of expenditure on security, visa clearances etc, cannot be denied being incurred by the Government," it said.
In its statement, the Ministry said the Government has proposed to bring all the National Sports Federations under the RTI Act through Sports Development Bill.
"Insofar as BCCI, in particular, is concerned Government of India has been treating BCCI is a National Sports Federation and approving proposal of BCCI for holding the events in India and participation in international events abroad," it said.
It said Delhi High Court has observed that "substantial funding" cannot be strait-jacketed into rigid formulae of universal application and since BCCI has been getting indirect funding this could be treated as being substantially financed by the appropriate government.
The Ministry in its statement dated December 16 said whenever BCCI had faced difficulty in obtaining the Customs Duty exemption, it has approached the Sports Ministry for furnishing a certificate that it is a recognised National Sports Federation in India.
"Ministry has issued such certificates in favour of BCCI...The BCCI has been at par with other NSFs and has been availing various government benefits such as customs duty exemption, income tax exemptions. Since BCCI is a very old body, the papers relating to BCCI's recognition by Government of India are not readily available," it said.
The Ministry said in terms of Income Tax exemptions, BCCI was registered under the section 12(a) read with Section 17(a) as a charitable organisation, make it eligible for such exemptions in the Income Tax, but it was withdrawn in December 2009 with effect from June 1, 2006.
"As such BCCI has availed tax exemptions as a charitable organisation till June 30, 2006," it said.
It said as per rules and regulation of MHA for holding an event in India permission of the nodal ministry is required and for grant of visas by the Indian Missions.