By Aishwarya Dhakarey, Symbiosis Law School, Pune.

Sports has an evolved role today from a recreational one to now, a role which establishes a nation’s supremacy in the international podium. The peculiar nature of disputes arising in sports will continue to surprise us. The United Nations, in its resolution 58/5 adopted by its General Assembly on 3 November, 2003, has recognized sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace.[1] Given such pivotal part played by sports, it is utmost important to deal with various facets of sports be it legal, social, political, economic in a systematic and organized modus operandi. The Indian model of sports governance comprises of different entities at several levels namely, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS), Indian Olympic Association (IOA), State Olympic Association (SOA), National Sports Federation (NSF), Sports Authority of India (SAI). These are autonomous bodies as recognized by the Olympic charter. Not much time has passed since the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was suspended by the International Olympic Committee, this marred the very image of India as a Sporting nation. The reason being violation of National Sports Code while holding elections. The suspension had an after effect that the organization would not be entitled to any funding by IOC. But to the country’s relief, the suspension was revoked but all this after the loss of global reputation. The impairment with which sports in the country suffers witnessed myriad sports scandals bringing disgrace to the nation. To name a few, the hockey sex scandal that rocked the nation in 2010, the Pinki Pramanik scandal, The Santhi Soundarajan gender controversy, the IPL spot fixing debacle and many others.

The legal dimension

Entry 33 in the Seventh Schedule of our Constitution provides that the State as well as the Centre shall make and enact laws on regulation, registration and recognition of associations involved in sports. Operating under the supervision of Prime Minister of India, Ministry of Youth Affairs should constitute an independent sports regulator. Although SRAI will operate under MYAS, it will have an independent role similar to that of SEBI and TRAI. Coming to the grey areas present on account of the absence of a proper sports legislation, few of those are accountability and administrative issues like flawed appointments in sports bodies, lack of supply of resources to sports teams, etc. There are also complaints revolving around sexual abuse these days. This is because of an imperfect check and balance system. Technically speaking, there are also no provisions specifically on Alternative Dispute Resolution for dispute resolution in sports. India is so to speak, not very legally prepared to face anti completive issues with great acumen.

The first draft of the ‘Prevention of Sporting Fraud Bill, 2013’ was placed in the public domain in India by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. The piece of legislation was drafted with the idea to prevent spot fixing in Indian sports arena post the controversy surround IPL in 2013. The aim of the Anti-fixing Bill is to “prevent and combat sporting fraud affecting the integrity of sports and fair play in relation to national and international sporting events and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.[2]The bill once notified as an Act will serve as a vital tool to prevent spot fixing related fraud. Moving on to gambling, it is legal to wager on sports involving skill under the age old enactment The Public Gambling Act, 1867. There are also few forms of gambling which have been legalized in India including casino gambling in Goa, casino gambling in Sikkim, etc. One point is to be made here, the concomitant stakeholders associated with the implementation of sports legislations should have a say when the laws are drafted to have a varied form of opinion. There must be also few provisions drafted to deal with issues of sexual harassment, training and facilities extended to sports person and broadcasting rights etc.

Suggestions

There must be presence of a powerful, well etched and defined sports legislation in India covering all nuances of sports and giving no arbitrary powers to any authority. The point being, in the absence of a strong and robust legislation, there will be no efficacy in the functions of the sports authorities formed thereunder. Also, there might be absolute political intervention which can be easily checked with a well drafted legislation reducing anomalies. The sporting universe has time and again tormented by numerous scandals and scams. The Olympic Games Bidding Scandal, the recent IPL scam and allegations of sexual harassment by the Indian Women’s Hockey Team have alarmed the nation. This incident exposed the maladministration and insularity of a defective system that drained our resources.[3] Match fixing and payment by bookies have time and again brought the dark side of cricket to forth. In the context of sports, one major identified problem is the use of performance enhancing drugs. This problem still needs to be addressed effectively, despite the creation of NADA in the country. National Anti Doping Agency NADA deals with adopting and implementing anti-doping rules and policies which conform to the World Anti-Doping Code, cooperates with other anti-doping organizations and promotes anti-doping research and education.[4]  Drug testing and the list of banned drugs is  clearly stated by the nodal agency concerned whereas, penalties, privacy issues and right to appeal even if codified in the black letters of law remain to be conflicting areas. Similarly, the criminal defamation which arises in certain cases associated with doping is a delicate issue again. Checking the infirmity of corruption and ensuring accountability in conduct and financial deals of the government bodies and other agencies involved in managing sports is an additional step worth consideration. The laws of competition should be completely in consonance with the sports law framework. Lack of an ideal competitive atmosphere for all the teams is an irregularity. India’s Competition Act 2002 holds void any agreement which creates anything contrary to fair and free competition and involves abuse of dominance. In this respect, issue of grant of broadcast rights of sporting events is yet another contentious issue. Nonetheless, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting which is the pertinent authority can be subject to Right to Information in this connection. Lastly, the matter of rights of transgender athletes and players have long been overdue. The facilities provided to every sports reflect the discrimination in treatment of sports by the administration. Above all, a de novo perspective on the sports laws and their operation will prove to be a boon in the long run.

[1] Jitendra Choudhary and Jayat Ghosh, Governance of Sports in India (2013) available at http://tejas.iimb.ac.in/articles/Tejas_September%20Edition_Article%201.pdf

[2] From the preamble to the Anti-fixing Bill

[3] Need for Sports law in India, IAS SCORE, (March 25, 2015) available at  http://www.iasscore.in/latest-news-61.html

[4] NATIONAL ANTI DOPING AGENCY , (March 26, 2015) available at http://www.nada.nic.in/View/Homepage.aspx