The idea of bringing the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and other national sports associations in the country under the ambit of the proposed 'Prevention of Sporting Fraud Bill' is not very far from reality.
The initial draft of the highly-awaited bill, which will help the government eradicate sporting frauds in the country, reached the table of Union Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, Sarbananda Sonowal, on 22 July for approval.
Though it was sent back by the Law Ministry, following certain amendments, the bill, once enacted, will surely bring the much-needed transparency in Indian sports, notably in cricket.
According to the provisions of the proposed bill, a heavy fine and jail term of up to a maximum of five years will be levied on any player, official or administrator, if found guilty of match-fixing. It will also make sporting frauds including cheating, sharing inside information and under-performance, illegal.
The bill, once signed by the sports minister, will be sent for the Cabinet's approval during the ongoing monsoon session of the Parliament.
The Narendra Modi-government seems to have stepped up its efforts in bringing the sports bill to fore following the Supreme Court intervention in the Indian Premier League (IPL) spot-fixing and betting case, which involved high-profile teams Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals.
What is 'Prevention of Sporting Fraud Bill'?
The Modi government has been adamant in bringing a stricter and wider prevention of sporting fraud bill, a legislation the previous UPA government failed to enact. The bill, which is likely to get the Cabinet's approval in the ongoing monsoon session of the Parliament, aims at preventing sporting frauds in India.
Though details of the bill are not yet known, there's notable provisions for heavy fines and a jail term up to maximum of five years for those caught in match-fixing. There are also various categories of fraud defined in the draft. From deriving economic benefit, to manipulating results, spot-fixing and other monetarily driven actions will attract severe punishment under the proposed bill.
The sharing of insider information will also attract a jail term while a fine of up to 10 times of monetary gain is apparently suggested in the bill. In case the crime is committed by any of the sports bodies, every official responsible for the crime in that organistaion will be deemed guilty of the crime.
Besides sportspersons, the support personnel, umpires and match officials will also face action if found guilty of any sporting fraud. They will also be considered guilty if they fail to disclose information of sporting fraud.
Trouble for BCCI
The Indian cricket board has so far managed to get away from the government's bid to make it a national sports body. However, the recent developments will surely have the board ducking for cover.
After the IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal came to light in 2013, the calls for a strong sports bill started doing the rounds. The original version of the bill, which was drafted in 2011, had targeted the BCCI and wanted the private body to come under the purview of the sports bill.
The Indian cricket board was expected to adhere to the regulations aid by the ministry like other national sports federations, and follow the rules regarding elections, the Right to Information Act and doping, among other issues. But, the BCCI staunchly rejected the idea, terming the bill as 'draconian'.
With a number of political heavyweights in its working committee, the cricket board flexed its muscle and ensured the bill never saw the light of day.
BCCI's objections to the bill in 2013
The Indian cricket board, at the helm of former chief N Srinivasan, had listed eight specific objections to the bill's clauses:
- 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.
- It will create dichotomous situations in some areas.
- 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.
- 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).
- The BCCI's recognition doesn't emanate from the Indian government but from the ICC.
- There's hardly any pending litigation relating to cricket, so the proposed establishment of a Sports Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal are not required.
- 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.
- The proposed dispute redressal system will "seriously impinge" on the right of association of the board and its members.
However, the tables seems to have turned on the BCCI this time after the recent developments in the IPL spot-fixing scandal exposed the loopholes in their governance further leading to a strong demand for the highly-awaited sports bill.