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accountability amitabh thakur
Cricket dons defy India
The BCCI says it has nothing to do with the Union of India and yet conveniently uses the word ‘India’ at the end of its name, reflecting the patronage of the Government of India.
The word ‘autonomy’ is quite catchy and very often we find people going gaga over it. Autonomy is understood to mean ‘one who gives oneself their own law’. It is based on the basic premise of the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision. It is also often used as the basis for determining moral responsibility for one’s actions. Thus, in short, it refers to self-government.
The idea is quite lucrative and hypnotising. As opposed to government control, many of us seem to prefer the autonomous position of different bodies. This liking for autonomy has its roots in the concept of laissez-faire, which loosely means an environment in which transactions between private parties are free from state intervention, including regulations, taxes, tariffs and enforced monopolies. Something like ‘let it be’, or ‘leave it alone’.
The debate between the two diametrically opposite ideas has been going on for ages and we have equally vehement proponents of both. Yes, prima facie there seems a lot of logic in both the ideas. Autonomy has its shares of advantages and disadvantages while government control has its own. But without going into this debate, I would like to present a third situation where a government believes in having some kind of control and regulation but it is possibly not being able to impose it positively in case of some organisations just because they are mighty and powerful. If there is complete autonomy to one and all, that might be fine. Similarly, government control can also be accepted. But what about a situation where government controls are there but the people and Institutions are so powerful that they seem to be least caring for such controls. I think that is a situation that must be avoided at all costs.
Recently, I came across one such real example where as far as my understanding goes there are some institutions adhering to government regulations which one particular organisation seems to be least concerned about. This institution is the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the all-powerful body regulating and controlling cricket, the sport where the players are demi-gods and where the sport itself is treated like some religion.
To go into some factual details, the Department of Sports, which is under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, is the nodal agency for the development and control of sports in the country. The Department generally acts through various national sports federations. According to it,  “Over the years, a number of national sports federations have come up for development of specific games/sports disciplines. The Government of India in achieving their objectives has actively supported these federations.” For the year 2011, the Department granted recognition to 43 federations. This list, surprisingly, does not include cricket, the most popular sport in the country.
BCCI is a private body that claims and actually acts as the controlling authority for cricket. Its Memorandum of Association declares its objects, inter alia, are to control the game of cricket in India and to resolve disputes and give decisions on matters referred to it by any state, regional or other association, to promote the game, to frame the laws of cricket in India, to select the teams to represent India in test matches and others, and to appoint India’s representative(s) to the International Cricket Conference and other conferences / seminars, connected with cricket.
BCCI has framed rules and regulations in exercise of its powers under this Memorandum of Association. As stated therein, the powers and duties of the BCCI are referred to in Rule 9, which include to arrange, control and regulate visits of foreign cricket teams to India and visits of Indian teams to foreign countries, to permit under conditions laid down by the Board or refuse to permit any visit by a team of players to a foreign country or to India, to frame the laws of cricket in India, and to make alteration, amendment or addition to the laws of cricket in India, whenever necessary, to take disciplinary action against a player or a member of board, etc.
Yet, BCCI contends it has never applied for recognition while the Union of India has said on oath, even before the Supreme Court, that the “Board is a recognised national federation”. The BCCI says “though in the field of cricket it enjoys a monopoly status, the same is not conferred on the board by any statute or by any order of the government. It enjoys that monopoly status only by virtue of its first mover advantage and its continuance as the solitary player in the field of cricket control.” It also says that there is no law which prohibits the coming into existence of any other parallel organisation. It accuses the Government of taking contrary positions with regard to the BCCI’s status in different writ petitions pending before different High Courts and in the Supreme Court.
This is a very peculiar situation. While the Government of India claims it has always recognised BCCI as the “apex national body for regulating the game of cricket in India”, going to the extent of accepting its recommendations for award of Arjuna Awards, which can be done only by national sports federations, it has not actually recognised BCCI as a national sports federation. This is possibly because BCCI has never sought or applied for the status of a national sports federation, as can be seen from the list of 43 recognised NSFs for the year 2011.
This also means that the name BCCI itself is a violation of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950. Section 3 of this Act prohibits improper use of certain emblems and names, which includes any name which may suggest or be calculated to suggest the patronage of the Government of India or the Government of a State. Clearly the word ‘India’ at the end of ‘BCCI’ suggests patronage of the Government of India. So, here we have a body which says it has nothing to do with the Union of India and yet conveniently uses the word ‘India’ at the end of its name, showing absolute patronage of the Government of India.
Similarly, Government rules say that nominations for various sports awards like the Dronacharya Award, Arjun Award, Dhyan Chand Award and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award that are bestowed by the Union Government shall be invited only from recognised national sports federations and the scrutiny of nominations of for such awards (except Arjun Award) need compulsorily be done by the concerned federation. However, the BCCI has been sending its nominations for these sports awards in violation of Government rules.
In short, BCCI is trying to have the best of both worlds, having its cake and eating it too. It is getting all the privileges of being a de facto federation, but is keeping complete autonomy with no government control or public accountability. This is a precarious situation and needs to be checked immediately.
Again, what holds true for the BCCI should hold true for all other ‘mighty institutions’ who should not be allowed to behave as being above law. Let there be either no law or regulations or let the laws and regulations be applied to all bodies on a completely equal footing. I hope no one disagrees with this stand. g
(Amitabh Thakur, an IPS officer from UP, recently filed a writ petition against the BCCI regarding this dual behaviour)


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