Why central sports bill is a red herring

cricket blogs for Yahoo Cricket Columns

When I first looked at the draft Sports Development Code on the Ministry website, I was totally befuddled. Having contributed to the making of the first sports law in the country (The Rajasthan Sports Act, 2005), I did not know whether I was looking at a draft legislation or an Operations Manual of a Sports Association.


Normally, a legislation lays down the important essentials and leaves the details to be prescribed in the Rules and Guidelines. Here we had a compendium which seemed to address every little micro detail.


It prescribed the age limits, the tenures, the coaching and tournament guidelines, I was not sure whether we were headed in the reverse liberalization era. I learnt that an argument had been advanced that since certain Associations got free land, they were amenable to Govt. control.


If we take this logic a little further, almost every hospital, educational institution, most industries, and more than half the NGOs should also get covered under Govt. control and RTI. In legal parlance, it is called perverse logic.


The tenure prescription is not based on any sound logic either. If the Bill targets the BCCI, Injeti should know that it is the only organization which has tenure limits prescribed. Some of the best run Associations in the country have been piloted by persons of repute over long periods for them to attain today's status.


Are we willing to give the credit of super performances in the discipline of Boxing and Shooting to the respective Associations. Limiting the tenures takes away the focus of a leader. As far as the age prescriptions go, I am not clear how limiting it to below 70 would help.


A sportsman typically spends all his youth playing and it is only around the age of 40 that he starts getting into sports administration. If we want experienced sportsmen to retire by 70, there is a huge contradiction here.


Non-sportsmen get into sports administration much earlier. Thus the avowed purpose of the Bill of making more sportsmen part of the top administration gets defeated by prescribing age limits. In any case, age has got nothing to do with either wisdom, capacity or the will to deliver.


Control is writ large in every aspect of this Bill. A legislation must aim at Regulation and not control. Every Association must aim at controlling a particular sport through its autonomous constitution.


The Sports Development Bill seeks to take away this autonomy and impose its will on the Associations through Govt. nominees, guidelines and various other instruments of coercion. This is not the way sports is run in any democratic country. This is the pattern of totalitarian countries and should be decried.


I have no issues with anyone on the point of accountability. However, one should not cut off the head for curing the headache. There are several ways of ensuring accountability and our laws are good enough to ensure this. What we need is close attention to issue of accountability through close scrutiny rather than taking virtual control in Government's hand.


This of course does not touch the legal points, such as the Right to Association guaranteed by the Constitution and also the Freedom of Speech and Expression in using the name 'India' or the issue of Union or State power to legislate. I think all of us need to be a little more practical.