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Millennium Post

Weeding out spot-fixing

It is a laudable and a humble effort by a panel headed by Justice Mukul Mudgal to propose a legislation for introducing transparency in the national Olympic committee and national sports federations. But this proposed law is not effective to curb the menace of betting and spot-fixing. The panel has deliberately left it out as the Union Law Ministry has promised to draft a law to deal with spot-fixing.

The draft National Sports Development Bill-2013 has proposed application of the Right to Information Act (RTI) Act to all sport bodies as they are deemed to be public authorities. This is a bold measure for bringing in needed transparency in sports when political parties are baffled with the verdict of the Chief Information Commission bringing them under the ambit of the RTI Act.

However, the proposed Bill has excluded selection of athlete, appointment of coach or trainer, quality of athlete’s performance, his or her medical health and injuries suffered, whereabouts and test results of an athlete and information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or IPRs and disclosures of which would harm the competitive position of a third party from the purview of the RTI Act.

The proposed law also has made no attempt to depoliticise sports. It has not debarred politicians from contesting elections to sport bodies, but has capped the age eligibility for holding office at 70 years. A person against whom criminal charges have been framed under Section 228 of the Criminal Procedure Code will be ineligible to contest elections to national Olympic committee or national sports federations.

A sports minister and officials in the sports ministry and Sports Authority of India will not be able to contest elections. An officer bearer in one national sports federation will not be eligible to hold post of an officer bearer in another national sports federation. A person who has served as an office bearer in the executive body for two consecutive terms will not be eligible to contest election. However this provision will not apply in case of the office of the President for which the eligibility to contest would be relaxed to allow those who remained as officer bearers for three consecutive terms in the executive body. Setting of a Sports Election Commission to conduct elections has been proposed.

The proposed Bill has stipulated 25 per cent representation of athletes in the executive body with voting rights. But this representation is too small and should be raised to at least 51 per cent. The new law further says that athletes nominated by the athletes commission will be included in the decision making process of the executive body. Representation of either gender should not be less than 10 per cent of the membership in the general body.

All federations seeking direct or indirect funding need to be accredited by the government. There will be only one accredited body for each sport. Certificate of accreditation cannot be suspended or cancelled by the government without ratification from Appellate Sports Tribunal.

The proposed law has urged for setting up of ethics commission, athletes commission in national sports bodies. An Appellate Sports Tribunal is proposed to be set up with selection committee consisting Chief Justice of India or his or her nominee judge, sports secretary and president of National Olympic Committee. Appellate Sports Tribunal will not adjudicate on disputes relating to Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games or other international events.

The national federations shall be responsible for preventing age fraud and doping. The proposed Bill has tried to bring in more transparency in sports. But a greater evil still remains to be tackled. Betting and spot fixing scandal have rocked the sport world in general and cricket in particular. It is unfortunate that despite the existence of multiple laws in the country, this heinous crime goes on unabated. Viewers’ appreciation and confidence in the game are on the wane as reports of match fixing come in. It is shocking to note that betting and fixing have spread its tentacles far wide in this country and even across the borders to agents abroad.

A study done by an industry body estimate the annual market size of betting in this country at over Rs 300,000 crore a year. Except horse racing and rummy, betting in sports is prohibited in this country as per the Public Gambling Act, 1867. A number of state governments have enacted legislations banning gambling as betting and gambling falls under the ambit of Entry 34 of the State List under Constitution. The erstwhile British rulers were wise to maintain the sanctity of popular games like football and cricket by not allowing gambling. Rampant illegal gambling has led to serious crimes like spot fixing or match fixing. The use of modern technologies like the internet and mobile phones have facilitated the work of bookies and even extended their reach beyond the borders. But this does not mean that this menace cannot be controlled. Terrorists use most sophisticated modern technologies and there are conscious efforts to track down the activities of terrorists and bring them to justice.

An additional session judge of Delhi court had rightly observed that gambling is often used as a means of money laundering and income from such activities is being used to fund illicit activities like drug trafficking and terrorism. Apart from the Public Gambling Act, 1867, the Information Technology Act 2000 as amended in May 2011 has placed the responsibility on internet service providers (ISPs) to impose on all subscribers terms of use which prohibit the transmission, posting or up loading of any content which ‘encourage money laundering or gambling or is otherwise unlawful in any manner whatsoever.’ The law also imposes an obligation to remove and disable such content once they have actual knowledge of its existence.

The Information and Technology Act has been legislated on basis of the Union List vide Entry 31 of the Constitution which gives the central government the power to legislate on subjects like posts and telegraph, telephones, wireless, broadcasting and other forms of communications.
Existing laws in the country are sufficient enough to deal with the menace of betting and match fixing. Sports and games need patronage of the government and business houses. But this does not mean that it should be commercialised to an extent, which would endanger its sanctity.
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