New Delhi, April 18: Observing that the BCCI was a "limb of the state", the Law Commission on Wednesday (April 18) recommended that the cricket body must be brought under the ambit of the RTI Act as it falls under the definition of a public authority and cannot escape public scrutiny.
A report of the Commission, while making the recommendation that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) be made accountable though it is regarded as a "private body", also noted it has received "substantial financing" from appropriate governments in the form of tax exemptions of "thousands of crores" and land grants.
In hard-hitting observations, it said non-consideration of the role played by the BCCI as "monopolistic" in regulation of the game of cricket has resulted in the board "flying under the radar of public scrutiny, encouraged an environment of opacity and non-accountability".
In July 2016, the Supreme Court had asked the commission to recommend whether the cricket board can be brought under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. This followed demands to bring the cash-rich cricket body under the RTI to usher in transparency.
The report, submitted to the Law Ministry, states that the BCCI ought to be classified as 'state' within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution. Noting that the conclusions of the Law Commission were only recommendations, the BCCI said it would wait for government's decision on the matter.
"The BCCI has no role in this matter. It's a recommendation by the Law Commission and we will wait for government's decision on it. As far as our knowledge goes, Law Commission's recommendations are not binding unless Parliament decides on it. So it's just wait and watch for us," a senior BCCI functionary said.
The Law Commission said though the BCCI is continued to be regarded as a "private body", owing to its "monopolistic character" coupled with the public nature of its functions, it can still be termed a 'public authority' and be brought within the purview of the RTI Act. "An analysis of the functioning of BCCI also shows that the government does exercise control over its activities and functioning.
"... BCCI, falling in line with the foreign policy of India, did not recognise a player from South Africa due to their practice of apartheid; and that the cricket matches between India and Pakistan in view of tense international relations were made subject to government approval. The foregoing positions BCCI as a 'limb of the state'," the law panel report said.
The report pointed out that the BCCI has enjoyed tax exemptions of "thousands of crores". "To be precise, between 1997-2007, the total tax exemption amounted to Rs twenty-one billion six hundred eighty-three million two hundred thirty-seven thousand four hundred eighty-nine. It may also be noted here that from 2007-2008 onwards, the registration of BCCI under section 12A of the Income Tax Act, 1961, as a charitable trust, was withdrawn," it noted.
The BCCI, it said, exercises 'state-like' powers affecting the fundamental rights of the stakeholders, guaranteed (in) the Constitution. It is hereby recommended that the BCCI be viewed as an agency or instrumentality of state, under Article 12 of the Constitution, thereby making it amenable to the writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 32," the report said.
It noted that human rights are sacrosanct and innately associated with the human personality. These rights...are to be respected by, and can be enforced against not only the 'state' but also private entities. Therefore, the BCCI should be held accountable, under all circumstances, for any violations of basic human rights of the stakeholders, the report said.
To support its case further, the law panel said the uniform Indian team wears contains the national colours and their helmets display the Ashok Chakra. "BCCI, though not a national sports federation, nominates cricketers for the Arjuna Awards. Parliament and state legislatures chose not to enact a legislation to govern the sport of cricket reflecting tacit recognition on the issue afforded to BCCI," it said.
The panel is of the view that the BCCI virtually acts as a national sports federation. It said the BCCI's memorandum of association states that the Board's objects and purposes are to control, improve quality, lay down policies pertaining to the game of cricket in India as well as select teams to represent India at international fora. "Moreover, as per the statement made in the Lok Sabha, the central government has already been regarding BCCI as a national sports federation... since all other sports bodies which are listed as NSFs are covered under the RTI Act, it is inconceivable as to why BCCI should be an exception," it said.
The recommendations of the Law Commission are not binding on the government.