Law panel wrong on BCCI’s status

The Law Commission’s recommendation that the BCCI should be brought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act is wrong and based on false assumptions and observations. It took the commission two years to study the matter and come to a conclusion. The Supreme Court had made the reference on the matter to it in July 2016 while accepting the Lodha committee's recommendations on the changes to be made in the country’s cricket administration. The commission has given some reasons to support its recommendation, but they are not strong enough to justify its conclusion. Some of them are, in fact, excuses dressed up as reasons. The Law Commission has said that the BCCI’s monopolistic position “has resulted in the board flying under the radar of public scrutiny” and that this is not right for a sport body. The argument is untenable.

The commission says that the BCCI functions like “a limb of the State and has State-like powers’’. This does not make sense. The Supreme Court itself had in 2005 ruled that the BCCI is not to be regarded as State. The commission says that the BCCI has benefitted from land grants and tax exemptions from the State and that this is public money which should have gone to the national exchequer. It also notes that it has raised resources leveraging its monopolistic position. But these cannot be considered grounds to treat it as a public body. The BCCI is registered as a private society and it is an independent sports body, with its own rules and regulations. It is not a government or government-funded body and so the RTI cannot apply to it, no matter how much money it handles. It is a private body like the English or Australian cricket boards and the FIFA, and therefore has the right to manage its own affairs. The government may give tax exemptions or other grants to it, but these are at its own discretion. That is no reason to interfere in its affairs. Nor are issues like human rights involved in matters pertaining to player selection, etc. Player selection, and the sports itself, will be the casualty if the commission’s recommendations are accepted. The independence and autonomy of a private body cannot be taken away just because it has grown into a big and flourishing institution. 

It was wrong on the part of the Supreme Court to ask the Law Commission to look at the issues concerning the BCCI. They do not come under the ambit of the commission. The court itself has no sound reason to deal with the way cricket is run when it has much more pressing matters to attend to. 

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