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BCCI a ‘state’, bring it under RTI ambit: Law Commission

The Law Commission has urged the central government to make the Board of Control for Cricket in India a national sports federation and bring it under the purview of the Right to Information Act.

cricket Updated: Apr 19, 2018 00:47 IST
Jatin Gandhi
Jatin Gandhi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Board of Control for Cricket in India,Law Commission,Right to Information Act
The argument that the BCCI is a private body has been rejected by the Law Commission.(HT file photo)

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the sport’s richest governing body, performs “state-like” functions, receives public funding and so should be brought under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Law Commission of India has suggested to the government.

Commission chairman BS Chauhan, a former Supreme Court judge, submitted a 128-page report to the law minister on Wednesday, recommending that the BCCI be classified as a “state” under Article 12 of the Constitution. The report was finalised at a meeting of the full commission in New Delhi on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court had in July 2016 asked the Law Commission to examine the issue and make recommendations to the Centre. The commission said not just the board but “all of its constituent member cricketing associations, provided they fulfil the criteria applicable to BCCI”, be brought under the ambit of the 2005 RTI Act.

If the government accepts the recommendation, BCCI will have to set up an information dissemination system similar to that of government departments to answer queries and provide information sought from it through RTI applications.

The sports ministry, under the previous UPA government, introduced a sports code in 2011 and later drafted a bill to bring BCCI under the RTI Act but the bill was not cleared by the Cabinet.

“We tried thrice at that time, including by submitting an affidavit to the Central Information Commission, that this should be done,” Ajay Maken, the then sports minister, said. The Indian cricket team represents the country and not just the board, Maken reasoned.

The Law Commission has applied the same reasoning, noting that the BCCI performs the function of “selecting the national team for international cricket tournaments, as is done by other National Sports Federations for their respective sports.”

The Board exercises “monopolistic control over cricket,” the Commission said in its report.

“Even if BCCI is continued to be regarded as a private body, but owing to its monopolistic character coupled with the public nature of its functions and the ‘substantial financing’ it has received from appropriate Governments over the years (in the form of tax exemptions, land grants et al) it can within the existing legal framework, still be termed as a ‘public authority’ and be brought within the purview of the RTI Act,” the Commission said in its report.

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Section 2(h) of the RTI Act establishes that a body owned, controlled or ‘substantially financed,’ including a non-governmental organization, would be termed a public authority “within the purview of the definition given in the said section,” the panel has reasoned.

A senior BCCI functionary played down the Law Commission’s recommendation, and argued that the board was not substantially funded by the government.

“It is based on media reports that the BCCI is substantially funded by the Government, we are merely observers in this,” the person said on condition of anonymity.

“I don’t believe anyone from the BCCI was called to give their side of the story. Anyway, the BCCI is a very transparent body; details of any payment made above ?25 lakh is shared on our website, our audited accounts are on the website. No one is going to lose sleep over it.”

The person added: “A due process has to be followed, it has to be debated, there have to be discussions in the law ministry, which will then decide if they have to bring it to Parliament.”

First Published: Apr 18, 2018 16:58 IST