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Is BCCI mightier than Cabinet?

Is BCCI mightier than Cabinet?
Highlights

A media report criticised that might of cricket lobbyists was so strong that they could influence change of sports portfolio of Ajay Maken It says

A media report criticised that might of cricket lobbyists was so strong that they could influence change of sports portfolio of Ajay Maken. It says:

“The message of the Sports Ministry was loud and clear — if the BCCI wanted to continue as the body that was responsible for the selection of the official Indian cricket team for international games, then it could not escape the RTI net... But then the Sports Minister’s bold proposal to reform the sports bodies came to a nought when the Manmohan Singh cabinet rejected the Bill. The rejection was on expected lines.

There were several Ministers in the Manmohan government who had built deep routes in the BCCI over the decades; they presided over the kitty comprising thousands of crores; they wanted to keep the shenanigans of the BCCI under wraps…The leading Opposition party, the BJP, too did not make any hue and cry over the matter as many of its leaders were leading lights of the cricket body as well as other national sports federations… The collective might of these politicians with vested interest in sports bodies succeeded in ousting Ajay Maken from the sports portfolio.

With his ouster, the sports Bill died a natural death. No Sports Minister, thereafter, has mustered the courage to revive the bill meticulously drafted by the Mukul Mudgal committee,” says the article appeared in www.firstpost.com.

The IPL betting scam shook the foundation of belief in the sanctity of sports and also pointed out the need for the sports law in India. Then Supreme Court intervened and stressed the need for regulation to ensure good governance in sports, which is contributing to the nation’s fast growing economy, in Krishanlal Gera v State of Haryana and Ors, (2011) 10 SCC 529, Union of India v Abhimanyu Tiwari (2016) SCC online SC 395, Balram Sharma v Union of India (2010) 15 SCC 393. After three cricketers were arrested in 2013 IPL on charges of spot-fixing, the Supreme Court examined the affairs of BCCI in BCCI v Cricket Association of Bihar & Anr., (2015) 3 SCC 251. Further investigations discovered involvement of BCCI President N Sreenivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, who was also arrested, and Supreme Court suggested N Sreenivasan to step down from Presidentship warning to pass a direction to step down. SC also suggested his team not to contest for BCCI elections again.

Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee:

The apex court ordered Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee to investigate this further. Justice Mudgal Committee pointed out lacunae in intelligence tools to find out sporting fraud, wanted a strong investigation wing to be constituted and interference from BCCI office holders should be strictly prevented. The committee also recommended that players, including extras should not be allowed to own or have an interest in any stake in player agencies or companies involved with the game unless such interests are in the nature of sponsorship. Such interest must be declared 15 days prior of accruing on such interest. (Justice Mudgal IPL Probe Committee, Supreme Court, A Report on allegations of Betting and Spot/Match Fixing in the Indian Premier League (2014).)

The Mudgal Committee came to the conclusion that IPL COO Sundar Raman, Chennai Super Kings’ owner Meiyappan and Rajasthan Royal’s owner Kundra are guilty for betting and that BCCI chief Srinivasan did not act upon the accused despite knowing their violations.

Accepting most of recommendations of Mudgal, the SC appointed Justice RM Lodha Committee for more stringent regulation of BCCI. One of the important tasks before Lodha was to make BCCI a transparent body, for which it prepared a questionnaire, secured opinions and finally suggested revolutionary reforms which change entire power structure and functioning of this sports body. Among various suggestions the Lodha directed BCCI officials shall disclose their assets to the Boards so that they could be certain about the non-involvement of BCCI officials in betting.

Public function and public duty: The Amicus Curie in BCCI case, eminent lawyer Gopala Subrahmaniam questioned BCCI when it was refusing to answer under RTI Act on the ground that it was a private body and also engaged in prolonged legal battle:

“You discharge public function but you want to enjoy private status. If you have public persona then you have to shed private persona. This cannot be done. It selects national team for the country, it cannot be a private society. It is a public entity?”

Justice Lodha Committee: Then the apex court in 2015 found that the functions of the BCCI to be by their very nature, ‘public functions’ but held that the BCCI may not be a ‘state’ under Article 12 of the Constitution and constituted the Justice Lodha (former CJI) Committee to suggest reforms. (Paras 117-120) The Lodha Committee submitted report on 18th December 2015 recommending significant measure to streamline the working of the BCCI. The Committee found the BCCI to be lacking in fairness and transparency and proposed measures to ensure transparency. It felt that the people of the country have a right to know the details about the BCCI’s functions and activities. Thus, it recommended bringing BCCI within the purview of the RTI act.

It was a forceful plea to bring it under RTI Act. The Lodha Committee felt that the people of the country have a right to know the details about the BCCI’s functions and activities. It therefore recommended that “the legislature must seriously consider bringing BCCI within the purview of the RTI Act.” (Page 58)
The BCCI was strongly resisting this proposition on two grounds – that it is a society registered in Tamil Nadu and that it does not receive government funds. So, it should be treated as a private entity, not public authority. In 2011, the then Sports Minister, Ajay Maken, piloted what was called National Sports Development Bill based on the recommendations of Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee.

The Bill made it categorically clear that only those sports bodies which would agree to come under the purview of the RTI Act would enjoy the right to use ‘India’ as the team’s name — “ In order to represent India at international events and to have a right for a particular sports federation to use ‘India’ or ‘Indian’ in the sport scenario, the federation shall have to comply with Chapter IV (Unethical Practices in Sports) and Chapter IX (Applicability of Right to Information Act)”. It is clear that if the BCCI wanted to continue as the apex and exclusive cricket body of nation selecting the official Indian cricket team for international games, then it should be answerable under the RTI net. (Based on CIC order on BCCI)

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