23 December 2011

National Sports Development Bill – The journey so far

By Vidushpat Singhania

The National Sports Development Bill, 2011 has been revised since February 2011 when the first draft was put up on the website of Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS). The revisions have been made taking into account the comments and suggestions received from sportspersons, athletes, coaches, sport support personnel, National Sport Federations, the Indian Olympic Association and Ministries concerned under the Government of India.

The journey of the National Sports Development Bill has been tumultuous one and has had its highs and lows. The first stage or the preliminary stage of the National Sports Bill can be attributed to the time when deliberations were undertaken by the MYAS and the broad issues that the Bill should address were shortlisted. These broad concerns were put in a draft that was released to the public in February 2011.

The second phase of the Bill began when a committee was constituted by the MYAS under Chairmanship of Justice Mudgal. This committee was constituted to review the comments received on the draft Bill received by post/email as well as to interact with members of the public and in particular, the stakeholders in sports in order to understand the public perception pan-India and to address the problems that plague Indian sports and needed to be addressed in the draft Bill. The committee convened public meetings in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi to interact with members having an opinion on the draft Bill.

In the third phase of the Bill, the Committee reviewed and shortlisted all the suggestions received by it and deliberated on how these concerns were to be incorporated in the amended Bill.  The Committee listed, in a tabular format, the comments received from the public and its own opinion on these comments.  It then submitted to the MYAS an amended National Sports Development Bill.

In the fourth phase, the amended draft of the National Sports Development Bill was submitted to the Law Ministry and was circulated amongst the various stakeholders in the Government.  The questions and concerns raised by these stakeholders in the Government were answered by MYAS and where necessary, changes were also made in the Bill.

In the fifth phase, this Bill was presented before the Union Cabinet.  Unfortunately, the Bill suffered a severe setback. The Cabinet sent back the Bill to the MYAS with their comments and asked MYAS to redraft it taking into account their concerns.  The MYAS again went  back to the drafting table and introspected on certain provisions of the Bill.  A new and a streamlined draft was now sought to be prepared with the aim of removing any perception of the Government interference in sports, that may have been created in the minds of the people in the various sports federations or the public.  The key changes made in this new draft are:

(i)  removal of all discretionary powers relating to recognition of a sports federation from the hands of the MYAS and vesting of these powers in the Sports Appellate Tribunal;
 (ii) putting in place, a provision which stated that the National Sports Federations which have already been granted recognition by the Central Government in the year preceding the year of commencement of this Act shall be deemed to be registered under this Act;
 (iii) putting in place, a provision to recognize the NSF,  which states that if the Government fails to decide an application for registration within 90 days, then a deemed certificate of registration would be granted under this Act. This provision was included in order to curb the administrative delays in Government;
(iv) vesting the power to appoint members of the Sports Appellate Tribunal with the Chief Justice of India;
(v)  providing that the bench of the Sports Appellate Tribunal should comprise a retired judge of the Supreme Court or the Chief Justice of a High Court, as the chairperson and retired judges of High Court as members. The term of these members (including the chairperson) would be limited to three years and they would have to retire on attaining the age of 70 years;
(vi) including a provision for an eminent athlete and/or sports science specialist to assist the bench of the Sports Appellate Tribunal, when required;
 (vii) removing the provisions dealing with the Sports Ombudsman, National Sports Development Council, Long Term Development Plan and the playing field associations;
(viii) including provisions to exclude certain sporting activities from the Right To Information Act;
(ix) providing for a three tier Athletes Advisory Council for representation of athletes in the National Sport Federations/National Olympic Committee;
 (x) making applicability of national anti-doping provision to which NSFs are subject to, dependent on compliance/adherence of the international federation of that sport to World Anti-Doping Agency’s anti-doping code;
(xi) providing that penalty imposed by the Sports Appellate Tribunal should be deposited in the National Sports Development Scheme in order to retain funds in sports,
(xii) For brevity, certain development aspects like measures for continuing education, health care and pension scheme and prevention of doping, sexual harassment and age-fraud and other measures for the development and promotion of sports have been deferred for coverage in the rules that may be formulated under the new Act.
Though the intention behind the National Sports Development Bill is to ensure good governance practices like transparency, accountability, responsibility and discipline, it needs to be seen whether the Bill actually sees the light of the day and becomes an Act. The draft Bill has been circulated amongst various stake holders in the Government and legislative department and it needs to be seen when the Bill is deliberated by the Cabinet.

There have been concerns raised by some members of the public that this Bill does not deal with the development aspects of sports.  At this stage, it needs to be clarified that development of sports would only happen when good governance in sports is ensured.  Infusion of funds from the public and the private sector in sports would only be possible, when the investor is aware of who is handling and how the funds are going to be utilized.  One hopes that the importance of other aspects of development, which could be a public-private partnership in sports, welfare schemes amongst others will be kept in mind and addressed in detail in the rules to be formulated later. 

[The author is Senior Associate, Sports Law, Corporate Division, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan, New Delhi]

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