CIC Pulls up Delhi Soccer Association for Refusing to Disclose Information in Sexual Harassment Case

The commission has said that the soccer body is a public authority since it receives “substantial funding” from the government and is thus answerable under the RTI Act.

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission has pulled up the Delhi Soccer Association (DSA) for refusing to disclose information regarding complaints of sexual harassment filed by several female players against one of its office-bearers. The denial of information was on the premise that the appellant was an alleged misuser of the Right to Information Act and that the body was not bound to provide the same since it was not a public authority.

The commission has, however, declared that the DSA is indeed a public authority since it gets “substantial funding” from the government.

The appellant, D.K. Bose, had in March sought information on the status of various complaints received by then DSA vice president N.K. Bhatia, treasurer Hem Chand and joint secretary Rajiv Gupta against another office-bearer and in-charge of girls’ football at the association. Bose had also sought details of members of the committee formed by DSA under Section 4 of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 and copy of notices and minutes of meetings of DSA.

Bhatia had in turn submitted that the respondent (DSA) was not a public authority as defined under Section 2(h) and (f) of the RTI Act as it was neither financed by the government nor did the government have any external control in its day-to-day administration.

The association had thus refused to part with any information. In his final order in the matter, central information commissioner M. Sridhar Acharyulu stated that the association “did not deny that it has complete monopoly over the sport in Delhi, but refuses to be answerable under RTI Act. This is highly unbecoming of a sports body. In fact, being a public body concerned with public activity like football, the DSA should have voluntarily disclosed entire information about it, including the bits and pieces asked by the appellant in this and several other appeals, and fulfill its obligation under Section 4 of RTI Act. They want all authority over the sport in Delhi for them and them alone but do not want to share the information.”

As for the status of the association, he said, considering the monopoly “recognized, sanctioned and continued” by the government of India through Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and also through the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and in view of the “indirect but substantial funding by the Government”, the commission had no hesitation unequivocally declaring that it was a public authority as defined under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.

The CIC also held that DSA had contended that the statute barred the disclosure of information about sexual harassment saying “the appellant herein with some ulterior motives was specifically interested in the information related to complaints of sexual harassment that itself barred to disclose other than to the parties of the complaint”.

DSA replies to women’s panel but refuses to answer under RTI

Acharyuly noted that it was odd that while the association had denied information under the RTI Act, it had already replied to the same queries on March 28 to its affiliating body and Delhi government through Delhi Women Commission.

The CIC said that subsequently, Kushal Das, general secretary of AIFF wrote a letter to Subhash Chopra, former president of DSA, on August 11 seeking clarification about the complaints and allegations of sexual harassment. The letter mentioned that though the accused official had been removed from his post as a result of the complaints against him, he still continued to travel with the girls’ teams due to inaction on part of the DSA.

The original complaint of the victim was also attached by the AIFF official.

DSA said was not an “employer” so could not probe the matter

On August 23, Chopra replied that the “managing committee carefully considered and discussed the matter in detail and accordingly informed the National Women Commission and Delhi Commission for Women.”. He further added that “as the DSA is not holding players on wages and not acting as their employer, hence formation of any such (probe) Committee is beyond the jurisdiction of DSA”.

Acharyulu also stated in his order that the officers of the respondent authority refused to share any document to the appellant except auditor’s report and also alleged that the appellant is a habitual misuser of RTI.

In this regard, he stated that “on one hand DSA accuses the appellant as misuser, admits it has given information as far as possible and then claims that it is not bound to give any information.”

The CIC has in view of all these facts directed the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to inform the appellant and the commission about the action taken on the complaints and representations and allegations mentioned in his order regarding the DSA within 15 days.

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