Sports is a multi-billion dollar global industry for which many countries have brought in various legislations for its smooth governance and regulation. There is no central legislation for regulation of sports in India, its governance is dispersed under administrative law, law of contracts, competition law, intellectual property rights law, labour law, and law of torts, etc. when matters such as anti-competitive behaviour, disciplinary measures, violation of wages & working conditions, and infringement of IPR arise. Sports is a state subject under entry 33 of the Indian Constitution.
The Government of India formulated the National Sports Policy in 1984 and 2001 with the objective of achieving excellence at the national and international levels, and to include sports in the concurrent list, but there is little evidence till date to prove how it would be converted into practice. The Indian sports federations and associations have taken a lot of flak for their maladministration. There are various National Sports Federations which are autonomous in nature, yet they seem to be a breeding ground for politicians who are appointed as their presidents and take charge of all its operations. Due to inexistent sports laws and no governing body for the management of these federations, most of them do not provide information relating to tenure of members and neither do they publish their financial statements in the public domain on a regular basis. The majority of the sports associations have not constituted a nomination committee which is responsible for selection and appointment of new members to the governing body. Out of these associations only Hockey India has adopted a conflicts of interest policy.
National Sports Development Bill 2013, which still hasn’t been enacted yet, proposes to bring all sports federations under the purview of Right to Information Act. It proposes to set up an Ethics Commission, which shall enforce a Code of Ethics in accordance with the International Olympic Committee’s code and principles enshrined in the Constitution of India. The Appellate Sports Tribunal is also proposed to be established whose selection committee would comprise of Chief Justice of India or his/her nominee judge, secretary, Department of Sports, and President, National Olympic Committee. Another salient feature of the bill is establishment of Sports Election Commission which would conduct free and fair elections to National Olympic Committee, National Sports Federations and athlete commission. ‘National Sports Ethics Commission Bill 2016 was recently introduced in the parliament, which aims at establishing a national sports ethics body to ameliorate the integrity of sports in India by providing severe punishment to the offenders guilty of match fixing. It is unfathomable to discern as to when these aforementioned bills would turn into laws.
All sports governing bodies are registered as ‘societies’ under Societies Registration Act, 1860. Almost all sports federations, despite being autonomous entities, are not devoid of political influence due to which their image has been marred by corruption and unaccountability. Despite the presence of several federations, India’s performance in majority of International events has been appalling, and one of the main reasons is the absence of a comprehensive sports law. All these associations must be governed under one law. The majority of the sports associations have not disclosed a roadmap which would pave the way for improvement in the sports in next 5-10 years.
The Australian Sports Commission has adopted ‘Australia’s winning edge: 2012-2022’ which aims at making them the world’s best. Adoption and implementation of such policies induce one to achieve the target within a prescribed period of time. There has to be an unequivocal term limit for the office bearers of the sports federations which is absent in the present scenario. Another issue is of the sports injuries; there must be a law which provides for the better health treatment and rehabilitation of the player who gets injured. Employment is another issue which requires attention, most of the sportspersons after their retirement are unable to find jobs. Harassment, abuse, breach of human rights, etc. would be harmful for both the individual and sports organisation. Application of sexual harassment laws should be extended to sporting activities as well. With the escalation of sports related disputes, India requires an independent dispute resolution body which specifically entertains sports related disputes and provides a speedy recovery. Rather than having numerous sports federations, government should focus on establishing sports schools and universities.
India is in a dire need of a central legislation for the promotion and development of sports at the amateur and professional level. It should encourage the prospective athletes to pursue their career in sports by providing them incentives and scholarships. This legislation must contain code of ethics and policy of conflicts of interest. All sports federations and associations should fall under this legislation. There should be transparency in the functioning and appointment of members of the sports federations Through this legislation, there should be a single sports commission, which must manage and oversee the implementation of sports policies, proper usage and channelization of funds, and provide for the training and preparation of the athletes. Apart from a distinct sports law, there should also be a separate legislation for gambling and betting which should have all Indian states within its ambit. The legalising of gambling and betting on sports would enable the government to generate more funds and aid in curtailing black money.