No consensus on definition of 'office-bearers'

Even as the Working Group on the National Sports Development Bill asserted its will to put a “robust” system in place on Monday, its members were yet to reach a consensus on the definition of ‘office-bearers’ for the application of age cap.

The draft Bill describes office-bearers “as any person who holds the offices of president, secretary-general, treasurer or as defined in the constitution of the National Olympic Committee or the National Sports Federation.”

The committee has set an age bar of 70 for the ‘office-bearers’, but whether the same applies to the other posts, such as that of a vice-president, was yet to be decided upon.

“We have debated a lot on who all should be brought under the ambit of the office-bearers but there have been opposition by some members at the prospect of applying these guidelines to other posts,” said former tennis player and member Manisha Malhotra during the committee’s interaction with the media on Monday. Olympic gold medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra and former hockey player Viren Rasquinha are also part of the committee.

"I personally feel it should be 70 years for everyone. There are comments coming in, the draft is not final, and there is every chance we can have the same age limit for all the officials," she said.

The sentiment was shared by other committee members, BVP Rao of Clean Sports India and Justice MukuI Mudgal, chairman, who felt the 70-year age limit should become binding for all NSF officials.

There was also a discussion about the set-up of the proposed athletes’ commission by each NSF.

“The total strength of the athletes in the executive body should not be less than 25 per cent of the members with voting rights. The idea is to give athletes a part in the decision-making of the sports body," said Bindra.

BCCI to come under RTI

There was, however, unanimity of opinion that the Bill should be applied to all sports federations, including the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The BCCI for long had refused to call itself an NSF.

Sports Secretary P K Deb was of the opinion that if the BCCI could send out a national team, then it was to be considered as a National Sports Federation. The committee reiterated that the BCCI would have to come under the purview of the RTI once the Bill was passed by the Parliament.

"RTI will apply to all sports bodies including cricket. Yes, there will be a few exemptions on questions like why a particular player is selected over another, the contents of a player's contract, but the public is authorised to raise questions," said Justice Mudgal.

“The Bill is fair and applies to all sports bodies. At the same time, we do not want to give an impression to anyone that we are intervening."

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