By Elton Gomes
In an attempt to bring transparency to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the Law Commission has urged the Centre to include the cricket body and all its affiliated units under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
In its report submitted to the Law Ministry, the Law Commission mentioned that the board should be classified as “state” as per Article 12 of the Indian constitution.
As per the Commision, the BCCI’s role has been “as monopolistic in regulation of the game of cricket” and has “resulted in the Board flying under the radar of public scrutiny, encouraged an environment of opacity and non-accountability”. The Law Commission further argued that all national sports federations are included under the RTI and hence the the board should also be included under the same.
The worlds richest cricketing body – the BCCI – operates as a private entity under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act.
If it is included under the RTI, an individual can file PILs “questioning the selection of players representing India, states and zones.” Furthermore, the cricket body could be questioned about agreements signed with the International Cricket Council and other cricketing nations.
Here’s what happened
A lawyer with significant experience of dealing with sports legalities told the Hindustan Times that although the Law Commission’s observations are recommendatory, they have a high chance of getting accepted due to the importance of the Commission.
The lawyer added that “the biggest impact of the RTI would be that the BCCI would have to be a lot more transparent and accessible,”- something that the board has always resisted.
The BCCI argues that it should not be included under the RTI as it does not receive sufficient funding from the government. Former BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah told Hindustan Times: “The law of RTI says if you are substantially funded by the government then you can come under RTI.” He added, “First, the law has to change and it can’t be changed only for the BCCI.”
A question then arises here: why does the the board not want to come under the RTI? Is it an accountability issue? The BCCI claims otherwise: ” … The BCCI is a very transparent body; details of any payment made above Rs. 25 lakh is shared on our website, our audited accounts are on the website,” a BCCI official told Hindustan Times. However, facts point to a different direction.
In December 2014, the Finance Ministry said that there were 213 cases of tax evasion against the BCCI and the Indian Premier League (IPL). In 2011, the Enforcement Directorate issued 19 showcause notices to the board, and the IT department slapped 96 notices over service tax violations.
Will there be more accountability if the board comes under the RTI? Senior sports journalist and former editor-in-chief at Wisden India, Dileep Premachandran says that accountability will certainly increase. However, he expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the same. “Have other Indian sports become more accountable? Which Indian sport has flourished under government control?”, he questioned. “Compared to the utter mess that’s most other sports in India, the BCCI is a well-run organisation.”
Why you should care
As the BCCI faces more and more scrutiny, it remains to be seen whether including the BCCI under the RTI is a step in the right direction.
Keeping in mind the poor form of sports in India, the board might be doing some good to Indian cricket and sport. Moreover, the RTI, as a tool of action in sports, has to be examined as the response timings and accountability of PILs in sports remains ambiguous.
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