Sports Bill will sound BCCI's 'death knell', says board

The BCCI contends that since it doesn't take government assistance, it is not obliged to apply for the status of a national sports federation.



New Delhi: The BCCI has launched a blistering attack on the Sports Bill in a confidential report, terming it "draconian" and a potential instrument of "state-sponsored repression". The richest body in world cricket holds the view that if provisions of the proposed legislation are implemented, they would sound its "death knell".

The Board of Control for Cricket in India also feels that the National Sports Development Bill, 2011, aims to "nationalise cricket" by placing government-nominated cricketers on its executive committee.

In its observations on the Bill - they run into 39 pages and have been accessed by Mail Today - the board has warned that India could go unrepresented in international cricket competitions if it is deprived of selecting the national team. It points out that only the BCCI has the right to do so. The apprehension is that the Bill would virtually create a parallel cricket body.

The Rs.2,530.88-crore worth BCCI contends that since it doesn't take government assistance, it is not obliged to change its constitution and apply for the status of a national sports federation (NSF) - as sought by the Bill - and become a "public authority".

The moment BCCI becomes an NSF, it will be answerable to the public under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The sports ministry has been writing to the BCCI from 2010 onwards to register itself as an NSF, but the board has opposed such a scenario tooth and nail.

"The right of the BCCI to represent India internationally doesn't emanate from government recognition. It springs out of the recognition granted to us by the International Cricket Council (ICC). Once there are two bodies which require grant of recognition, repugnancy will set in since they can come to conflicting views," writes BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale in the report.

"The body sought to be created by this law will be entirely different from the present federal structure of the BCCI," he adds.

The Bill was proposed by sports minister Ajay Maken and presented to the Union Cabinet some time ago. The latter asked the ministry to revise it in August last year. The proposed law, which seeks to fix the upper limit for administrators at 70 years and a limited time in the chair, has since been redrafted for a second presentation before the Cabinet.

The BCCI, which came into being in December 1928 in Delhi, doesn't take financial assistance from the government. It, however, does lean on the establishment in various other forms such as taking land on lease for constructing stadiums in different states, seeking police help during domestic and international matches and getting entertainment tax exemption as well as waivers on other levies.

Through the Bill, the ministry wants all NSFs to register with it; impart information under the RTI Act; display balance sheets and constitutions on their websites; follow the good governance formula; adhere to anti-doping measures; and prevent age fraud and sexual harassment.

The BCCI has listed eight specific objections to the Bill's clauses.

1) The Bill is unconstitutional because sports is a state subject and thus outside the purview of Parliament. It deals with issues that interfere with the internal autonomy of sports bodies.

2) It will create dichotomous situations in some areas.

3) The BCCI's good governance practices are "far stronger" than the ones proposed as the former do not permit re-election after a three-year term.

4) The Bill is ultra vires Article 19 (i) of the Indian Constitution since it provides for restrictions on the right of association that have nexus with Article 19 (4).

5) The BCCI's recognition doesn't emanate from the Indian government but from the ICC.

6) There's hardly any pending litigation relating to cricket, so the proposed establishment of a Sports Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal is not required.

7) The 11 athletes to be nominated by the Athletes Advisory Council (which seeks to raise the membership and voting rights of an NSF by 25 per cent) shall be included in the decision-making process of the federations' executive body.

8) The proposed dispute redressal system will "seriously impinge" on the right of association of the board and its members.

BCCI termed the proposal of an Athlete Advisory Council "totally flawed". "By allowing a group of cricketers to sit and nominate yet another group of cricketers to dilute the voting rights of our members would be nothing short of sounding the death knell for the BCCI," the report states.

But former India Test player Kirti Azad flays the BCCI for opposing the Bill. "Let them say they don't need government assistance. Are they above the law of the land? Can they make a violation and get away with it?" Azad, who has been an outspoken critic of the board, tells Mail Today. Significantly, the Supreme Court had ruled in 2005 that the BCCI is "not a state".

"The BCCI still hasn't changed its constitution from being that of 'promotion of cricket' to 'business of cricket'," Kirti remarks acerbically, referring to the withdrawal of income tax exemption by government agencies after it changed its objectives without informing the body with which it is registered.

The cricket board, which is registered as a society under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975, and under Section 12A with the director of income tax (exemption), Mumbai, changed its objective on June 1, 2006, from being a charitable entity to one that contributes to other sports. The BCCI contributed Rs.15 crore in 2007-08 and Rs.35 crore in 2008-09 to the sports ministry's National Sports Development Fund.

Former captain Bishan Singh Bedi feels BCCI should volunteer to come under the RTI Act. "I can't see much merit in (BCCI) opposing the Bill. If the other federations are ready to accept it, why is BCCI reluctant?" Bedi wonders aloud, talking to Mail Today.


Reproduced From Mail Today. Copyright 2012. MTNPL. All rights reserved.

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