Stating that the Indian cricket board was a ‘public authority, the Law Commission of India Chairman Dr Justice B S Chauhan, in its recommendation sent to the Union Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday, said that BCCI ought to be classified as ‘State’ within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution.
An analysis of the functioning of BCCI shows that the Government does exercise control over its activities and functioning, it said. The Law Commission report titled ‘Legal Framework: BCCI vis-a-vis Right to Information Act’ has been prepared pursuant to the directions of the Apex Court in the case of BCCI Versus Cricket Association of Bihar and others.
The law Commission was asked to examine the issue as to whether the BCCI would be covered under the ambit of RTI Act 2005, and if the answer is in the affirmative, make appropriate recommendations to the government.
An analysis of the functioning of BCCI also shows that the government does exercise control over its activities and functioning. “… BCCI, falling in line with the foreign policy of India, did not recognise a player from South Africa due to their practice of apartheid; and that the cricket matches between India and Pakistan in view of tense international relations were made subject to government approval. The foregoing positions BCCI as a ‘limb of the state’,” the law panel report said.
It said though the BCCI is continued to be regarded as a “private body”, owing to its “monopolistic character coupled with the public nature of its functions, it can still be termed as a ‘public authority’ and be brought within the purview of the RTI Act. The report pointed out that BCCI has received “substantial financing” from appropriate governments in the form of tax exemptions and land grants.
The BCCI has enjoyed tax exemptions of “thousands of crores”, the report said, adding that from 2007-2008 onwards, the registration of BCCI under section 12A of the Income Tax Act, 1961, as a charitable trust, was withdrawn. To support its case further, the law panel said the uniform Indian team wears contains the national colours and their helmets display the Ashok Chakra.
“BCCI, though not a national sports federation, nominates cricketers for the Arjuna Awards. Parliament and state legislatures chose not to enact a legislation to govern the sport of cricket reflecting tacit recognition on the issue afforded to BCCI,” it said. The panel is of the view that the BCCI virtually acts as a national sports federation.
It said the BCCI’s memorandum of association states that the Board’s objects and purposes are to control, improve quality, lay down policies pertaining to the game of cricket in India as well as select teams to represent India at international fora.
“Moreover, as per the statement made in the Lok Sabha, the central government has already been regarding BCCI as a national sports federation… since all other sports bodies which are listed as NSFs are covered under the RTI Act, it is inconceivable as to why BCCI should be an exception,” it said.
The BCCI, it said, exercises ‘state-like’ powers affecting the fundamental rights of the stakeholders, guaranteed (in) the Constitution. It is hereby recommended that the BCCI be viewed as an agency or instrumentality of state, under Article 12 of the Constitution, thereby making it amenable to the writ jurisdiction of the
Supreme Court under Article 32,” the report said. This is not the first time that there have been calls to bring BCCI under RTI. The Justice RM Lodha panel, which recommended the overhaul of the Indian Cricket Board and Justice Mukul Mudgal, who headed the panel that investigated the spot-fixing controversy in the 2013 Indian Premier League, had called for the BCCI to come under the RTI.