While the nation mourned India’s defeat in the Indo-Pak Champions Trophy Finals at Oval Ground in London, the Central Information Commission (CIC) on 16th June as well as on 9th June 2017, questioned the opaqueness of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in not revealing information which should mandatorily be made public, and the undue financial gains in terms of awards that cricketers receive as compared to other sports.
The CIC, in a hearing pertaining to Right to Information (RTI) activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal’s second appeal that was heard on 16th June, has asked the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MoYAS) and Union Ministry of Law to provide information or reasons on the following points relating to cricket and BCCI:
Why does the Indian cricket team sport the logo of BCCI instead of the Union of India symbol? Why is the BCCI still using the logo designed by the British in 1928? Why does the Government not change it to an Indian symbol, with the tricolor, the Ashok Chakra or any other logo decided by the Government?
Why has the Government or the MoYAS not taken measures to declare the BCCI as a public authority under RTI Act, as per its answer to Lok Sabha?
Why was the government not bringing a uniform policy to reward those winning international sports events in order to prevent unhealthy competition for publicity among Governments?
Why are frauds like match fixing and betting not prohibited and effective action not being taken?
What is the status of the action on the Bill to prevent sports frauds?
Mr Agrawal, says, “Since BCCI obtained an ex-parte stay-order in 2013 from Madras High Court on hearing at CIC, which is still continuing, it is now for the central government to declare BCCI a public-authority under RTI Act, as per reply by the then Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports to an un-starred question raised by four Parliamentarians on 27 March 2012. It becomes even more important in view of the observations of the Supreme Court in the matter, leading to various reforms in administration of BCCI.”
In another CIC hearing on 9 June 2017 Om Prakash Kashiram, the RTI activist, was stonewalled by the CPIO of MoYAS, when he sought information on why BCCI is not a public authority.
The Central Information Commissioner, Prof M Sridhar Acharyulu (Madabhushi Sridhar), stated in his final order, “As the nation looks to transparent functioning of BCCI, the CIC expects, in the interest of good governance and healthy cricket, to avoid scams like match fixing, conflict of interests, and misappropriation of public money besides upholding the sporting spirit, that the BCCI should get ready to be fully transparent in all its functions, or conduct itself like a responsible National Sports Federation (NSF), and voluntarily publish its information to public as if it is the public authority under RTI Act till the Union of India formally declared it as the Public Authority through appropriate means.”
CIC Acharyulu also ordered that, like the Justice Lodha Committee, which has been transparent in its functioning, cricket fans expect the administrators of Vinod Rai Committee to make BCCI fully transparent. “…the BCCI has to do maximum disclosures on its own so much so that the need to file RTI should be drastically reduced; that BCCI should put up a Citizens’ Charter on its website as people yet are not aware of its constitution or rules and regulations,” he stated.
Mr Acharyulu stated that the RTI applicant has sought information on which provisions of the Constitution of India is the BCCI selecting Indian teams or players for tournaments or cricket matches with other countries as the BCCI is a society under the Tamil Nadu Society Act. But the CPIO replied that information is not available and stated that he cannot transfer it to Ministry of Sports & Youth Affairs as BCCI does not come under the Ministry and therefore to seek information from BCCI itself. Not satisfied with the answer the applicant filed a second appeal with CIC.
The CIC has quoted several court decisions to explain why BCCI is obliged to be transparent and come under RTI. Regarding BCCI’s constitutional status, the CIC states in its decision, “At the national level, sports is at par with public education and public health, and like them sport is for public good and sport development is a public function.”
The CIC pointed out in its order that BCCI is a registered national body and receives State support and tax concessions. It states, “The BCCI’s claim that it is not a non-National Sports Federation entity is not correct. The BCCI is committing to functions like nominating players for national awards, which is an exclusive function of NSF. In Para 14 (Written Statement by Sports Ministry to Supreme Court dated 17 March 2017 regarding Lodha Committee report) it was submitted that BCCI is a deemed NSF as far as Government of India is concerned. From time to time the Government has been providing necessary support to BCCI to hold various events in India. The kind of support includes making available land by State and UT governments for stadia, tax concessions, making available security during the matches, and facilities for visa. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that BCCI is not an NSF and does not fall within the purview of the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports. Based on this stand of the Ministry, there cannot be any reason for the BCCI to claim itself as an un-registered NSF.”
Regarding BCCI’s monopoly over cricket, the CIC quoted a Supreme Court order, which has stated in no uncertain terms that government support qualifies it to be a public authority. The SC order states, “The Board (BCCI) is a society registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act. It enjoys a monopoly status as regards regulation of the sport of cricket in terms of its Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association. It controls the sport of cricket and lays down the law therefor. It inter alia enjoys benefits by way of tax exemption and right to use stadia at nominal annual rent. It earns a huge revenue not only by selling tickets to viewers but also selling right to exhibit films live on TV and broadcasting the same. Ordinarily, its full members are State associations except Association of Indian Universities, Railway Sports Control Board and Services Sports Control Board. As a member of ICC, it represents the country in the international fora. It exercises enormous public functions. It has the authority to select players, umpires and officials to represent the country in the international fora. It exercises total control over the players, umpires and other officers. The Rules of the Board clearly demonstrate that without its recognition no competitive cricket can be hosted either within or outside the country. Its control over the sport of competitive cricket is deeply pervasive and complete. In law, there cannot be any dispute that having regard to the enormity of power exercised by it, the Board is bound to follow the doctrine of ‘fairness’ and ‘good faith’ in all its activities. Having regard to the fact that it has to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of millions, it has a duty to act reasonably. It cannot act arbitrarily, whimsically or capriciously. As the Board controls the profession of cricketers, its actions are required to be judged and viewed by higher standards.”
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005, and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book, “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte”, with Vinita Kamte, and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.