The integrity of Indian Sports has been under the scanner for a while due to incessant rise in unethical sports practices that commercialization has brought with it. Situation is even worse when it comes to the most followed sport in the country, Cricket, which is suffering from severe administrative and regulatory issues.
Ever since the infamous IPL spot-fixing incident broke out in 2013, there have been scathing attacks over the functioning and management of the BCCI which is the sole Cricket managing authority in India. Ultimately, the Indian Judiciary had to step in and take over the administrative reform process.
The three players, namely, S. Sreesanth, Ankit Chavan and Ajit Chandila were charged for dishonesty and cheating under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) as match-fixing is not recognized as an offence under any of the Indian penal statutes.
The Delhi High Court acquitted all the three players citing the reason of unavailability of a specific statute to penalize the offenders booked under match-fixing. It noted “in view of the huge vacuum of law in this regard it is helpless to proceed further under any of the penal statutes.”
It is because of this issue of the absence of a specific sports legislation to deal with issues of match-fixing, doping, age fraud etc. that the National Sports Ethics Commission Bill came into existence. The Bill was first presented in Lok Sabha in 2016 by Shri Anurag Thakur, M.P. and also the then secretary of the BCCI. The Bill has received the President’s assent and will now be tabled in Lok Sabha during the upcoming Parliament session before it becomes an Act.
The Bill, as stated in its objective, aims to “provide for the constitution of a National Sports Ethics Commission to ensure ethical practices and fair play in sports including elimination of doping practices, match fixing, fraud of age and sexual harassment of women in sports and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
The Bill is a first of its kind legislation which puts sports under the purview of Indian Legal system that has been at the whims of sports federations till now. In addition to the objectives mentioned above, the bill will provide for more transparency in administrative functioning of sporting bodies and also formalize the dispute resolution mechanism for people associated with sports.
National Sports Ethics Commission
Section 6 of the Bill provides for setting up of a National Sports Ethics Commission which will be entrusted with the responsibility of enforcing the Code of Ethics and adjudicating upon offences as mentioned in the Bill. Sports Federations under the Bill will be required to formulate Code of Ethics to deal with unethical practices in Sports.
The Commission shall comprise of 6 members appointed by the Central government out of which 4 members shall be Judges of the Supreme Court or the High Court, which will be appointed in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
The Bill also lays down crucial provisions with regards to the tenure and functioning of the members of the commission, which includes barring members for reappointment after their term is over.
The National Commission will also have the authority to frame rules pertaining to submission of annual reports, and reports of action taken against offenders under the said act for sports federations across the country. The Commission will have same powers as that of a Civil Court under the Civil procedure Code, 1908 and its orders shall be executed as a decree.
Offences and Penalties
An attempt is being made through this legislation to criminalize the prevalent unethical practices in Indian Sports so as to restore and maintain its righteousness. The Bill defines the offence of match-fixing, age fraud and doping and lays down penalties for sportspersons, coaches and members of sports federations.
Sexual Harassment at workplaces has been an alarming issue worldwide and sports is no different. Under the provisions of the bill, if any athlete, coach or a member of sports federation is found guilty of sexual harassment, that player shall be debarred from participating in any existing or future sports events.
Moreover, all the Sports federations will be required to follow the guidelines framed under Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013.
Section 17 of the Bill defines match-fixing as receiving money for underperforming in a match, placing bets on a match which they are a part of and thereafter underperforming, passing crucial team information to betting syndicates, modifying the preparation of pitch to suit the needs of betting syndicates and facilitating contact to Indian and foreign players to leverage their performance for monetary gains.
In addition to being debarred by Sports Federations to participate in any future sports event, the Bill envisages rigorous imprisonment of minimum 10 years and/or fine five times the amount of bribe for the offenders.
Not only the withholders of the information about true age and gender but also sportsperson, guardian, coach or a member of sports federation who allows an athlete to take part in a competition knowing that the athlete is not suited for that age or gender category, will also be charged with the offence of age or gender fraud.
In addition to being debarred to participate in any existing or future sports event, with-holders of the information will be punished with rigorous imprisonment of minimum 6 months and a fine of one lakh rupees whereas facilitators will be punished with rigorous imprisonment of minimum one year and a fine of 1 Lakh Rupees.
Both the sportsperson and the coach or member of sports federation under the influence of whom the sportsperson indulges in substance abuse as specified in Code of Ethics for federations, shall be charged for Doping as envisaged in the Bill. They will be debarred from participating in any sports event by the sports federation and also will also be liable to rigorous imprisonment of minimum 10 years and/or a fine of ten Lakh Rupees.
Penalty for Contempt
Failure to comply with the orders of the Commission is also constituted as an offence under the bill and the offenders will be penalized with a fine for the same.Published 12 Nov 2017, 18:42 IST