The need for legislation governing sporting activities in India
Should sports be taken “seriously”?
India is not an alien to celebrate and glorify sports. We are so connected with sports since time immemorial. While certain games such as chess originated and flourished across the globe, we have opened our doors for sports like cricket, football, badminton etc., Not only did we adopt those games, it has become a part of our culture. With the globalization and development of technology, sporting events has reached millions of households. The market space surrounding the sports industry is huge. Right from broadcasting and advertising, many companies achieve huge profits around the industry. With all these happening, the million-dollar question is whether there is any codified legislation to govern and administer the issues of this industry. Well, the answer is not a solid yes. Let us look into the codes and policies governing the sports industry across the country.
Existing policies that helps in administering sports:
As mentioned earlier, there is no codified legislation for sports in India. Promotion of sports is mainly handled by the National Sports Federations (NSF) which functions autonomously. These NSFs are established by the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs. Organisations such as Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI), Indian Hockey Foundation, All India Football Federation and Indian Basketball are such autonomous bodies governing their respected sports. The ministry regulates the functions of these federations by issuing guidelines and notifications from time to time.
However, this did not enhance the standard of sports. As a result of which, a National Sports Policy was framed in the year 1984. The main objective of this policy was to raise the efficiency and standard of sports which later caught the eyes of the lawmakers which resulted in adding sports to Entry 33 under the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
In addition to these NSF’s there are other organizations that help in overall administration of sports in India. They are as follows:-
Sports Authority of India:
Sports Authority of India is a successor organization of IXth Asian Games, set up as a Society registered under Societies Registration Act, 1860, under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS)[i].
The main aim of the organization is to promote sports and games as mentioned under the Resolution No. 1-1/83/SAI (Dated 25th January 1984).
National Anti Doping Agency( NADA):
National Anti Doping Agency is an autonomous body set up by the Central Government. NADA helps in carrying out in tests on sportspersons. It also helps in promoting, coordinating and monitoring the doping control program in all forms of sports in India. The anti doping rules that are implemented are in accordance with the WADA code[ii].
Judicial pronouncements on sports regulation:
With absence of stern legislation on sports, certain landmark verdicts play a crucial role in addressing the issues regarding sports and games.
Zee Telefilms and Ors v. Union of India and Ors[iii]: In this case, the broadcasting rights of the Zee Telefilms were terminated by the BCCI. They approached the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution. The apex court in the case held that BCCI is not a state as mentioned under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution and Article 32 can be maintained only when filed against the authorities as mentioned under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution.
The Secretary, Ministry of Information and Technology v. Cricket Association, Bengal[iv]. This landmark judgment directed the broadcasting of sports on the public television since sports has a vested public interest.
K Murugan v. Fencing Association of India[v] The case upheld the importance of the Olympic Games in India and enumerated guidelines to form state associations for promoting Olympics in India.
Also, in the year 2007, the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharathi) Act was passed to provide access to listeners and viewers to encourage a larger audience[vi].
Issues which are needed to be addressed:
There is an urgent need to address several issues on Indian sports and labour surrounding them. Sportspersons, organisers and federations face difficult challenges in the absence of a solid legislation. Key issues include
Anti doping measures are governed by the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) which was established in the year 2005. The main functions of the agency are to promote proper education and awareness among the masses regarding the substance use in the field of sports[vii].The functions of the NADA are in accordance with the code enumerated by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA). However, there is huge increase in the number of cases reported for doping and the organisation does not seem to be doing their function efficiently.
Gender discrimination is found in all field of work and sports industry is not an exception. Women are still considered to be weaker sex in the industry. The number of female sportspersons is comparatively low to that of their male counterparts. Often the achievements of women athletes are either undermined or not considered glorious. Adding to the agony, many women sportspersons faces sexual harassment from the male coaches or male players.
Under Indian Constitution, equality of law is guaranteed under Article 14 and prohibition based on the sex of any person is unconstitutional under Article 15 of the Constitution. In addition to that,
Under Article 10-(g) of the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women)[viii] guidelines explicit provision is provided to equal rights to women and men in providing opportunities in the field of sports. India is obliged to follow these guidelines since it is a signatory to the convention.
Though all these laws and guidelines are in place, it is difficult to address all the issues that women face in the field. It requires a change of mindset among the minds of the organisations and provides equal recognition to all women sportspersons and to make them feel inclusive.
Match Fixing and Gambling:
The main reason for the need of sports law is to curb the corruption surrounding the sports events. The corruption is mainly carried out through match fixing, betting and gambling. In India, the act of match fixing is not covered under any laws. A proper definition could be found only in the CBI reports[ix]. The players involved in such activities are punished for cheating under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code[x]. However, this interpretation does not seem effective. Even since the advent of Indian Premier League (IPL) this issue of match fixing is always found in the headlines and no stringent policies are in place to disseminate the issue.
Broadcasting and commercialization issues:
After the advent of television, sports industry has opened wide range of opportunities to yield income. The market value of sports has increased with the flow of income in form of broadcasting and advertising. In the area of business, there are huge discrepancies. The rights to broadcast any sporting event lie in the hands of the broadcasting companies. Few companies have attempted to capitalise on these events without being a sponsor. This is called Ambush Marketing[xi]. Sadly, there are no effective laws in place to govern the concerns of the issue.
Sports industry is rapidly growing market with all the media attention and the trade surrounding it. It is high time the government steps in and formulates a comprehensive set of rules governing all the issues in the industry. Indian Sportspersons are getting huge recognition across the globe in account of winning. But after such event, they are neglected and not taken care of. Sports are now considered a national duty than mere recreation. The laws should be framed in such a way that it creates huge impact across all ranks of the hierarchy in all the sports organisations.
[i] SPORTS AUTHORITY OF INDIA, https://sportsauthorityofindia.nic.in/index1.asp?ls_id=54 Last visited 19.05.2021 [ii] NATIONAL ANTI DOPING AGENCY,https://www.nadaindia.org/en/primaryfunctions ( Last visited 19.05.2021)
[iii] CASE NO.: Writ Petition (civil) 541 of 2004 [vi] Regulating Sports and Games in India, the Need of a comprehensive legislation, International Journal of Yoga, Physiotherapy and Physical Education, Volume 3 issue 1; January 2018, Page 117 to 120 [vii] NATIONAL ANTI DOPING AGENCY, https://www.nadaindia.org/ (Last visited 19/05/2021). [viii] Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, UN Women: United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, 2010 [ix] CBI's Report on Cricket Match Fixing and Related Malpractices (Section 1) Cricinfo, available at: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/91418.html (last visited May 4, 2017) [x] https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1860-45.pdf [xi] Gordian N. Hasselblatt & David Kipping, India Intellectual Property and Information Technology Laws: News Letter, 2012, available at: http://www.manupatrafast.in/NewsletterArchives/listing/IP%20IT%20Vaish/2012/JanFeb-2012.pdf