The law panel recommendations add to the momentum for bringing BCCI under RTI
The Law Commission has recommended that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should be declared a public body, thereby bringing the Board and all its member association under the Right to Information (RTI). The law panel said that BCCI has been “flying under the radar of public scrutiny and encouraged an environment of opacity and non-accountability”. It has created “an impression in the minds of the general public that corruption and other forms of malpractices are adversely affecting one of the most popular sports played in India”. It also said that the Board held “State-like” powers in all matters cricket, and thus comes under the definition of “State” as held by the transparency law. The panel recommended that the Board be classified as a National Sports Federation, highlighting elsewhere in the report that it is, in essence, permitted by the Indian State to represent the country in international matches and tournaments, and the selection of what is widely held to be the “national” team rests completely with it. Even the International Cricket Council recognises BCCI as the body representing India.
Given the BCCI enjoyed tax exemptions of over Rs 2,100 crore between 1997 and 2007—albeit because it was structured as a non-profit body—significant public money has gone into it. The Commission said that the government had given BCCI “indirect substantial funding” via tax exemptions, subsidies, and land at “paltry” lease amounts. Thus, the panel said, “it would follow that the body/entity receiving such benefits would be a ‘public authority’, even though it may be a private, non-statutory or non-government body.”
Much of the rationale given by the highest law-advisory body in India reflects what the Justice RM Lodha committee had said in its report. The Board had become a stand-in for corruption and lack of accountability, and defining it as a public body and bringing it under RTI will be the first step towards easing it out of the muck and keeping Indian cricket clean. Given powerful political interests have managed to keep BCCI operations opaque so far, the government will be batting on a difficult pitch. But, the momentum is for making BCCI transparent, and not going forward with the law panel recommendations will be a hit-wicket dismissal.