Transparency watchdog Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Indian Olympic Association to give complete information related to contracts for selecting The Lalit Hotel, a five-star property, for the stay of its officials and the bills raised for the same.
The commission, the highest adjudicating body in RTI matters, also directed the IOA to submit an affidavit that it does not have any information sought by activist Subhash Agrawal regarding "the relationship, if any, of IOA president with the Lalit Suri Hospitality Group".
Using the Right to Information Act, Agrawal had demanded from the IOA, among other details, complete records of contracts made by the IOA with The Lalit Hotel (New Delhi) for various purposes, along with the documents related to finalisation of the decision to have a contract with the hotel from 2014 onwards and if bids were invited from other hotels as well.
He had also sought all records for selection of the hotel for the stay of IOA delegation-members in 2014 and copies of competitive estimates received from other hotels.
Agrawal had demanded bills raised (paid and outstanding) in the name of the IOA at the hotel during 2017-19.
The activist, in his RTI application, filed on November 11, 2019 had also sought for information on the relationship, if any, of the then IOA president with the Lalit Suri Hospitality Group.
The IOA had refused the details citing Section 8 (1)(d) which allows withholding information relating to commercial confidence. On the issue of points related to relations of the IOA president with the hotel group, the IOA said it did not have any information on it.
After hearing arguments from both the sides, Information Commissioner Amita Pandove said that information on points related to the selection of the hotel for officials' stay, contracts signed between the hotel, competitive bidding and bills raised should be provided to Agrawal.
"The commission further observes that the respondent has neither convinced the bench as to why the aforesaid information should not be disclosed to the appellant, nor provided/ submitted any written submissions, substantiating his claim that the information sought is exempt under Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act.
"Hence, the commission directs the present CPIO, Indian Olympic Association to provide specific and point-wise reply to the appellant as sought at point numbers 3, 4 and 5 of the RTI application," Pandove said.
The commission further directed the CPIO to file an appropriate affidavit, stating the factum that the information sought at point number 6 (relations, if any of IOA president with the hotel group) of the RTI application is not available with them.
"The said affidavit should be submitted to the commission with a copy duly endorsed to the appellant," she said.