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Government wants to revise draft sports code, sets off alarm bells

The exclusion of politicians and bureaucrats from sports federations has been the most contentious point in the proposed code.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | Updated: July 19, 2018 11:35:30 am
Vehicles of President, VP, Governors must have registration numbers: Delhi HC The sports ministry is set to approach the Delhi High Court with a request to submit a revised draft of the National Code for Good Governance in Sports. (Express photo: Ravi Kanojia/File)

The sports ministry is set to approach the Delhi High Court with a request to submit a revised draft of the National Code for Good Governance in Sports (NCGGS) 2017, sparking concerns that some crucial recommendations relating to ministers and bureaucrats holding posts in sports federations might be ‘diluted’. The government is likely to submit its affidavit after the Supreme Court delivers its order on BCCI’s constitution on Friday.

Sports lawyer Rahul Mehra, the petitioner in this case, alleged that the sports ministry is trying to ‘get the code out of the court’s scrutiny through the back door.’ “They tried to do this a few months ago but the court did not allow it to happen. Under the garb that they want to take it to a larger audience, the ministry wants to take it out of the court’s domain and then dilute the code. The intention is clear, they (government) do not want to do anything,” Mehra said.

The exclusion of politicians and bureaucrats from sports federations has been the most contentious point in the proposed code. Last year, then sports minister Vijay Goel had come out in support of his colleagues, saying ‘federations cannot be run just by the players.’ “There are administrative, PR and other things for which other people are required. I will not see if he is a bureaucrat or not. I don’t believe that politicians should not be there,” he was quoted as saying by PTI.

Currently, BJP president Amit Shah (Gujarat Cricket Association), his party colleagues Hemanta Biswa Sarma (Badminton Federation of India) and Brijbhushan Sharan Singh (Wrestling Federation of India), along with NCP leader Praful Patel (All India Football Federation), among others, are involved in sports administration. If the existing criteria in the code is enforced, they will have to give up their posts. A sports ministry official said the views in the draft code are of the committee that prepared it and not necessarily theirs – although it must be noted that then sports secretary and Sports Authority of India director general Injeti Srinivas was a part of the panel. Stakeholders’ comments

The official added that they intend to ‘invite comments of all the stakeholders’ – who, in this case, are the federations themselves: “In our affidavit, we are saying that let us firm up our own view and also get comments of all the stakeholders,” the official said. “We will request the High Court to let us have the report back and continue with the process. The draft that has been submitted to them is the view of the committee after all, and not the government’s.” Last year, a nine-member panel that included Abhinav Bindra, Prakash Padukone and Anju Bobby George submitted a draft of NCGGS 2017 to the ministry, which was in turn forwarded to the court in a sealed envelope. Apart from age and tenure guidelines for the officials, the committee, it has been widely reported, has recommended that ministers in central and state governments, apart from MPs, MLAs, MLCs as well as bureaucrats should be disqualified from holding positions in sports federations. The draft also debars an ‘immediate relative’ from holding posts for four years after the official is disqualified. A committee member said there was a provision in the code which allows the government to ‘relax’ clauses to ‘remove difficulties’ in its implementation.

Asked if the concerns regarding dilution of the code were valid, the sports ministry official said: “It’s not for me to say. Once we start getting comments from the people, we will come to know. There are always two sides to the story.”

The sports code, which outlines the criteria for accountability and transparency in federations, was first formed in 2011. It spelt out election procedures, age and tenure norms for office-bearers and brought federations under the Right to Information Act, among other things. However, it was argued in 2014 that some of the points in the code were not compatible with the requirements of modern-day sport.

Consequently, on the directions of the Delhi High Court, the ministry re-constituted a panel that revised the sports code last year. However, before it could formally notify the new code, the court had ordered the ministry to submit it before them. The draft has been lying in the sealed envelope for more than a year.

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