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CCI is a public authority

CCI is a public authority
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The answers are: Constitution Club of India is located on the land of the Central Government; Records to show whether this land was allotted to CCI...

Whether the Constitution Club of India (CCI) is a public authority was a question before a two-member bench of the Central Information Commission (CIC). The office of CIC asked the Director General of Central Public Works Department certain questions, while hearing second appeal of Subhash Chandra Agrawal.

The answers are: Constitution Club of India is located on the land of the Central Government; Records to show whether this land was allotted to CCI are not traceable; Constitution Club of India is located inside the Vitalbhai Patel House Complex with the total area of 40583.48 sqm. The area of the Constitution Club of India is 1267.10 sqm on second floor; and Copy of the lease agreement, not available.

Senior Counsel Prashant Bhushan argued that CCI was a public authority as that was constituted by all public authorities as per the Constitution of India, like Speaker and Deputy Speaker, and other officers as ex-officio members, and it was paying a very nominal amount of money as licence fee and making profitable use of the highly valuable property.

The Constitution Club of India has a historic background. It has a pre-Constitution existence, started for the Members of Indian Constituent Assembly. It is claimed to be acting as a platform for interaction amongst the Past and Present Members of Parliament.

It was established in 1947 housed at Curzon Road, formally inaugurated by the then President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan on February 1965 at present location of Vitalbhai Patel House. It has partnership with Swaniti Initiative which runs Research and Development Advisory (RADA) cell to assist the Members of Parliament.

Replies from Sumit Gakhar, Deputy Land and Development Officer, and Robin Adaval, Director (Works), show that the land and buildings belong to State and CCI is a licensee. Saying records are ‘not traceable/available’ is misleading.

The submissions of the officers revealed that the government was rendering administrative assistance to CCI, and significantly, the management and administrative control over Mavalankar Auditorium was transferred to the Lok Sabha secretariat by the MoUD and in turn, the Secretariat transferred it to CCI. Similarly, transfer of several buildings from CPWD, MoUD is being done to Secretariat and to CCI from time to time.

These officers sometimes describe transaction as lease and sometimes as licence. There are several proposals to demolish certain buildings and transfer the land to CCI. The official view of Lok Sabha on the proposals of Rudy of CCI is submitted to the Commission.

It is as follows: The details of the new project along with the estimates submitted by the NBCC are sent herewith. As regards source of funding, it has already been stated that the required funds will be provided by the Ministry of Finance.

It may also be stated that the Ministry of Finance have also been requested to make a token provision of Rs 5 crore in the Supplementary Demands of Grant of the Ministry of Urban Development and PA for the year 2003-04 to start with the project during the current financial year itself in case all the requirements are fulfilled by the MoUD in this regard. The remaining amount would be included in the Budget Estates of that Ministry for the year 2004-05.” This proves that there is complete funding by the state.

The responses to directions from CIC explained that CCI is located on government land and is using its buildings. The CCI claimed that they are paying Rs 100 rent per month, which was not reflected in some of their annual statements. Either they are not paying rent or it could be no rent at all.

Sometimes they referred to it as licence fee of Rs 100 or Rs 250 per month. For some months, those details of license fee payment were also claimed to be missing. Neither the CCI nor the government offices produced any lease deed. It seems there is neither lease nor the deed.

There is no evidence to show any ‘license’ related documents. The CCI is surviving on the lands and properties of the Union Government. It is absolutely dependent totally upon the state property. It has no source of income of its own.

The CCI makes income of more than Rs 2 crore on rent by using the land and buildings of Union Government, repaired and maintained by the government, in the heart of national capital by paying nominal amount of Rs 100 or 250. Besides this they have monopoly over ‘assistance’ to MPs relating to the research, academic, sports, conferences and entertainment needs of MPs, former MPs and others.

The submissions by various authorities reveal that the MoUD, office of Speaker, CPWD, etc., are wielding complete control. Their claim about absence of control is not correct. The CCI does not care to pay or report about it, ignoring the consequences. Interestingly, the offices concerned do not take any measures for non-payment of the fee, profit making by the CCI using the resources.

The departments of Union concerned are so indifferent and negligent that they do not know whether CCI was lessee or licensee, they do not know where lease deed is and what conditions for license are. The government spends hundreds of crores of rupees for CCI, and even plans to build a new building with Rs 140 crore for it, but does not make it accountable.

It is absolutely not reasonable on the part of MoUD to leave highly valuable land and buildings in the hands of a society, without even auditing or questioning the way resources are used by it. Such a kind of attitude of state towards public wealth does not go well with governance, let alone the ‘good governance’.

At the Governing Council meeting on 19.3.2002, a huge amount was allocated for renovation. Later it was downsized and again increased as per latest reports. This substantial funding, if withdrawn, the CCI cannot function even for a minute.

The test laid down by the Supreme Court in Thalappalam Ser. Coop. Bank Ltd. and others vs State of Kerala and others [SLP (C) No.24290 of 2012]that “the funding was so substantial to the body which practically runs by such funding and but for such funding, it would struggle to exist” is met. The Union government is transferring huge properties and creating big facilities at the cost of exchequer to Constitution Club of India.

People should have a right to ask about functioning of CCI and spending on it to create facilities for their elected representatives and others. It is clear that the state is pumping hundreds of crores of rupees, giving highly valuable state lands and buildings, asking CPWD to construct new building worth Rs 140 crore, with direct control of properties through MoUD or Lok Sabha Secretariat and facilitating them to make huge income every year.

Though the government does not control the affairs of the CCI, the members of CCI are not mere officers or government employees but Constitutional Authorities like the Speaker and the Union Minister, etc, whose decisions are substantial enough to dictate terms to the CCI. It is an accepted fact that all the renovations are undertaken by the MoUD.

Further, as is clear from the Income-Expenditure Statement of the CCI, rent receipts amounting to approximates Rs 2 crore, which the CCI is earning, is from the property owned by MoUD. Also, the income of the CCI matches, the expenditure as reflected in the income-expenditure statement of the CCI reveal that if the rent receipts are removed from the income of the CCI, there would be a deficit of Rs 2 crore, which is substantial enough to hamper the functioning of the CCI and the CCI might cease to exists. This means, such funding by the government i.e. inclusive of rent receipts and the renovation amount is so substantial in nature and it cannot be ignored for considering the public character of the CCI.

The Bench noted that claim of public authorities that most important documents about CCI were not available reflects serious negligence. The Bench declared CCI a public authority and directed it to appoint a Central Public Information Officer, and put in place a RTI response cell, within one month from the date of receipt of this order. (Based on the decision of the Bench of CIC consisting of author and Sri Sudhir Bhargav, IC, in Subhash Chandra Agrawal v. Constitution Club of India (CCI), CIC/SM/C/2011/000097/SS held on 14th October 2016).

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