When I first looked at the draft Sports Development Code on the sports ministry’s website, I was befuddled. Having contributed to the making of the first sports law in the country (the Rajasthan Sports Act, 2005), I did not know whether I was looking at a draft legislation or an operations manual of a sports association.
Normally, a legislation lays down the essentials and leaves the details to be prescribed in the rules and guidelines. Here we had a compendium which seemed to address every micro detail.
It prescribed age limits, tenures, coaching and tournament guidelines. I was not sure whether we were headed in the reverse liberalisation era. I learnt that an argument had been advanced that since certain associations got free land, they were amenable to government control. Taking this logic further, almost every hospital, educational institution, most industries, and many NGOs should also come under government control and RTI. In legal parlance, it is called perverse logic.
The tenure prescription is not based on sound logic either. If the Bill targets the BCCI, Injeti Srinivas (former joint secretary, sports) should know that it’s the only organisation which has tenure limits prescribed. Some of the best-run associations in the country have been piloted by persons of repute over long periods to attain today’s status. Are we willing to credit super performances in boxing and shooting to the respective associations? Limiting tenures takes away the focus of a leader.
Age limit illogical
As far as age prescriptions go, I am not clear how limiting it to below-70 would help. A sportsman spends all his youth playing and it’s only around the age of 40 he starts getting into sports administration. If we want experienced sportsmen to retire by 70, there is a huge contradiction here. Non-sportsmen get into administration much earlier. Thus, the avowed purpose of the Bill of making more sportsmen part of the top administration gets defeated by prescribing age limits.
Control is writ large in every aspect of this Bill. Legislation must aim at regulation and not control. Every association must aim at controlling a particular sport through its autonomous constitution. The Bill seeks to take away this autonomy and impose its will on the associations through government nominees, guidelines and other instruments of coercion.
There are several ways of ensuring accountability and our laws are good enough for this. What we need is close attention to the issue of accountability through scrutiny rather than placing virtual control in the government's hand.
The writer is Rajasthan Cricket Association secretary