A lot of hue and cry has been raised by the national sports federations against the Sports Bill, but the question is what are they objecting to? The primary objection is that the government is trying to control the federations. If this was correct, then the federations would have been right in opposing the Bill.
But the provisions have been clearly misunderstood. Through it, the government seeks to inculcate the broad parameters of good governance, accepted by the International Olympic Committee, while also incorporating the nuances of India's federal sports structure.
The discretionary power of the government to recognise or de-recognise federations is limited and subject to scrutiny of the sports ombudsman, which will be an independent body outside the direct influence of either the government or federations.
Another issue which some of the federation bosses are opposing is 25% representation of sportspersons . Some of the federations indeed have sportspersons on their executive body but surely this shouldn’t mean other federations will be exempted from having such representation.
The representation of sportspersons should not depend on the whims of the federation bosses.
Even if the stand of the federations is accepted that all sportspersons are not good administrators, clearly, non-sportsperson administrators are also not doing a good job. The autocratic ways of some office-bearers, who are not governing but ruling these federations with utter diffidence, is thus hindering the growth of sports in India. If the federation cannot exist without the sport, how can the management of a federation exist without a sportsperson? Even if it is accepted that certain sportspersons may not be good administrators, surely the remaining 75% should be able to run the federations while sportspersons can provide ground zero inputs.
The federations have also objected to the application of RTI. It cannot be denied that this may be a genuine concern as frivolous RTI applications hinder the functioning. But again, would it be justified to suppress even one genuine hardship even if nine other frivolous applications have been filed, just for inconvenience?
A distinction that could be deliberated is to limit the scope of RTI in sports only to a decision or process having an economical impact, whilst leaving sporting decisions and rules outside its ambit. A similar distinction between pure sporting decisions and decisions having an economic impact has been discussed in Europe and a similar principle can be adopted in India.
The writer, a sports lawyer, helped draft the bill.