The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Army HQs to provide information related to the Army Polo and Riding Club (APRC) run by the Army in New Delhi to an applicant who had demanded to know the funding pattern of the club and the role played by senior Army officers and civilians in it.
The Army Headquarters had in year 2013 rejected the application of Supreme Court advocate, Guneet Chaudhary, stating that the APRC was not a public authority and therefore the RTI Act 2005 did not apply to it. This decision had been subsequently challenged by the advocate who pointed out that the club was located in Delhi cantonment and was run in the area of ‘B’ Squadron of 61 Cavalry Regiment and that the President of the club at the time was the then Chief of Army Staff, General Bikram Singh.
The applicant had also brought out that as per the website of the club it was run by the 61 Cavalry and that the Chief Executive of the club was the Commandant of the 61 Cavalry. It was also brought out that horses and other resources of the Army were being used by APRC and therefore it falls under the definition of public authority. It was also pointed out that APRC was neither registered as a society, nor as an association of a federation at the time when information was sought about it and was also not registered with the Department of Sports of Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
Consequent to an appeal filed against the denial of information, the appellate authority of the Army HQs had directed the Chief Public Information Officer to provide all information to the applicant. However, this information did not satisfy the applicant who moved an appeal in the Central Information Commission.
Consequent to the second appeal filed with the CIC, though the Secretary of the Club admitted in 2014 that the club was being run in the area of 61 Cavalry and that the regiment looks after the daily management of the club on behalf of the Quartermaster general’s Branch of Army HQs, yet it was not a public authority as it was not receiving any government financial assistance for carrying out club activities. He added that there was no direct control of Army HQs or the central government in the functioning of the club even though he admitted that the President of the club at the time was the Chief of Army Staff.
In it’s decision, the CIC has said that even if the contention of the CPIO of Army HQs that the APRC was not a public authority was hypothetically conceded the fact remains that the applicant has sought information from a public authority and not APRC. Citing Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, the CIC noted that information related to any private body which can be accessed a public authority under any law for the time being in force has to be provided. “Therefore the contention of the CPIO that APRC is not a public authority will not apply to the merits of this case,” the Information Commissioner, Divya Prakash Sinha ruled ordeing that the information sought be provided within 30 days.