BCCI and the unnecessary tussle against fair play

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BCCI and the unnecessary tussle against fair play

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Bastab K Parida


Such has been the regularity of the BCCI and Supreme Court tussle and the never-ending cycle that has come with it, it must have made any cricket fan bored of the circus. So it did to me and it came to a point that it became a mere formality to check the proceedings to satiate the newsroom custom.

When one Chief Justice of the apex court of the land Tirath Singh Thakur ordered the implementation of the reforms suggested by another former Chief Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha, only to see the decision being overturned by current Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, I thought I would rather watch some Indian reality shows to waste my time than spending hours to take stock of the proceedings. But hang on, the BCCI is still the most powerful sporting body in the country and if you happen to be one of those passionate followers of the Indian cricket, ignore their moves at your own peril.

And on last Monday, when BCCI was waiting for Central Information Commissioner Madabhushi Sridhar Acharyulu’s report on whether BCCI should come under the purview of the Right To Information Act (RTI), the SportsCafe newsroom characteristically became curious. However, once it comes out, as expected, it made BCCI worried. Was this the lack of foresight or the perennial baseless resistance that has defined them more than their money-spinning activities? How does asking to abide by the RTI act make BCCI vulnerable? So many confusions and so many objections and I will try explaining them in no particular order.

In the Lodha Committee Report, the Supreme Court clearly stated that the BCCI was carrying out “public functions” and by that, they are subject to the public law put place by the court. Despite the board always maintaining that it was beyond the purview of the Supreme Court jurisdiction by virtue of it being a Trust registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registrations Act, there is no reason for the government to treat them differently than any other special National Sports Federations as per complete legal standpoint, thanks to the new organisational structure put in place. Even the way the board operates is way too public in nature and the Indian team plays with Ashok Chakra with tri-colour firmly being at the top of the helmet.

Although the central government doesn’t give any direct financial aid to the BCCI, they get a lot of concessions on income tax, customs duty, get land at subsidised rates and moreover, use the infrastructures of the government with very minimal interest rates. That money, of which BCCI was a direct beneficiary, could have otherwise gone to the government exchequer and turned to be “public money”. So, saying they are not getting anything from the government is fundamentally wrong. As national awards go, BCCI also nominates players for Arjun Awards, Khel Ratna Award and if they are a private entity, players shouldn’t be a part of those award process as well. 

So there is no reason in the part of the BCCI to oppose the reform from a pure legal vantage point. If anything, it will allow them to gain some sort of public credibility, which has always been viewed with a suspect eye thanks to the political clout the BCCI enjoys and billions of money they gain from the TV rights distribution and the IPL. As a matter of fact, RTI’s major role is to promote transparency and accountability that encourages various bodies to abide by the protocols through obligatory disclosures of required information.

While the BCCI has decided to go to the court stating that it deals with private information like team selection, injuries and maintaining the sanctity of the dressing room, it actually doesn’t make any sense. Because the RTI Act has clearly stated that it protects national strategic interests, commercial confidences, trade secrets, intellectual property, the privacy of personal details and the information received in a fiduciary relationship. In such cases, the body has the right to reject such applications. 

In this context bringing the details of National Sports Development Bill, 2013 brought by the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government is only prudent. The Draft Bill was prepared under the chairmanship of Justice (Retd) Mukul Mudgal, and the direct supervision of eminent sportspersons like Olympic gold medal-winning shooter Abhinav Bindra and former India hockey skipper Viren Rasquinha, sports administrators and legal experts, but couldn’t see the light of the day as BCCI opposed it big-time. 

A part of the NSDB says that the selection, appointment or exclusion of an athlete, coach, trainer or physiotherapist for participation in a competition or the quality of performance of an athlete to go with various details of the injuries suffered by an athlete, the whereabouts of an athlete, or the test results and information that are treated as confidential under the National Anti-Doping Agency Code; and the information including commercial confidence or the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party wouldn’t be produced under the RTI application. This makes everything clear. Had they been a bit more co-operative they wouldn't have gone to the court for the same argument. 

BCCI’s stalling tactic has been a legal masterstroke for them since January 2, 2017, when board president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke were dismissed from their positions by the court. It will be almost two years and the date of the next election, as per the new constitution, is yet to be declared and that eventually led to a point where CJI, albeit a new one, had to bring reforms to the previous CJI’s order, taking the very essence of the recommendations. Vested interests and conflicts of interest have made them wriggle and the fight for power sometimes overrides the moment of reform and revolution. 

But, the time has come to welcome the radical transformation in a more matured way. It is all about establishing protocols and procedures so as to public disclosures of the requisite information. It will give a credibility to BCCI that it always wanted, but never received despite the cash-cow called IPL. However, will they understand this and have some forward thinking?

Well, your guess is as good as mine.

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