In another effort to impose checks, balances and accountability on the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the Law Commission has now suggested that the apex cricket body of the country be made into a 'public body', or at least a private body that will be under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The panel had finalised its report and will soon submit it for the consideration of Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, according to a report in The Times of India. "We have found that BCCI is eminently qualified to be classified as 'state' under Article 12 of the Constitution," Law Commission chairman Justice BS Chauhan was quoted as saying by the daily.
The BCCI at present works as a private entity under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, and if the government accepts the Law Commission's recommendations, it will have far-reaching consequences for how cricket is run in the country.
For starters, if the BCCI gets classified as a 'state' entity, it will be subjected to constitutional checks by the Supreme Court and high courts and would have to be open to public interest litigations (PILs) questioning the fairness and propriety of its decisions.
So for instance, there may be PILs over the selection of certain players and the exclusion of others in the Indian team, or over agreements signed by the BCCI with the International Cricket Council (ICC) or other cricket nations.
According to Times of India sources, the panel unanimously decided to suggest that the BCCI be classified as a public body under the RTI Act, given the board's monopoly over the most popular and cash-rich game in India, the public nature of the board's work and the considerable financial support it receives from the government in the shape of tax exemptions, allotment etc.
The Supreme Court, in its judgment of July 2016, had asked the Law Commission to examine legal requirements to bring the BCCI under the RTI Act.
The law panel opined that the BCCI always aligned cricketing relations with other countries according to the goverment's foreign policy and nominated players for the Arjuna award. Also, players displayed the national colours on their kits, and more often than not, a politician from a ruling party headed the board, as had NKP Salve, Madhavrao Scindia, RS Mahendra, Sharad Pawar and Anurag Thakur.
The panel comprising Justice Chauhan and members Justice Ravi R Tripathi, S Sivakumar and Sanjay Singh, reached their decision after thoroughly going through the law, Supreme Court judgments and views from the public.
The panel recalled the Union sports minister's statement in Parliament that the government already looked at the BCCI as a national sports federation (NSF) . It recommended thus that the BCCI may explicitly be mentioned as an NSF in the list given in the website of the sports ministry. Clear-cut classification as an NSF will automatically bring the BCCI under RTI ambit, the Times of India source said.