The UPA government has revived the National Sports Development Bill aimed at bringing cricket under the government’s control, almost 18 months after it was sent for a deep burial by the Union Cabinet.
The timing of the sports ministry’s decision to set up a committee headed by former chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court justice Mukul Mudgal to re-examine the draft bill is curious.
It comes at the time when NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who also heads International Cricket Council, is threatening to contest next general polls with non-Congress allies, especially in Maharashtra where the party has considerable political influence.
Pawar has also accused the Congress of ignoring the UPA allies in formulating the government policies and been critical of the National Food Security Bill. Pawar is said to be not averse to the idea of the third front suggested by SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
The sports ministry, however, disagrees with any relations between Pawar and its move on the sports development Bill.
“The bill is being reviewed to bring transparency in the functioning of the national sports bodies and overcome the opposition to the proposed legislation by state governments,” a ministry’s statement said.
What the ministry fails to answer is the reason for 18-month delay in initiating the process after the Union Cabinet’s instruction to the ministry for re-drafting the Bill in mid-2011, keeping in view the observations of different ministers.
The Bill was anchored by then sports minister Ajay Maken, who was replaced by Jitender Singh in Cabinet reshuffle in 2012. Singh also took about four months to set in motion the process to have a legislation to make sports management transparent and effective.
The Mudgal committee has also been asked to examine constituting separate bodies such as Sports Election Commission — a dispute resolution tribunal and an ethics committee.
The ministry also wants the committee to examine a separate sports development Bill for enactment by the states as the present Bill only covers National Sport Federations. The committee will also have to submit rules to enforce the National Sports Development Bill.
Although the committee’s mandate looks impressive, many legal experts say enacting a Bill in about a year before next general elections was a difficult task. “If the government has failed to enact a sports law since 1997, I wonder how it will do the same in a year,” said a senior government functionary.
The National Sports Bill not only faces opposition from NCP it is also opposed by a strong section in the BJP.