BCCI: Whether state or not?

Reading time: 6-8 minutes.

The BCCI stands for Board of Control for Cricket in India. This Board was established in the year 1928. BCCI is the provisional board that represents cricket in India. The BCCI organizes and conducts the cricket matches and tournaments in India. In other words, BCCI is the governing body that oversees cricket in India. It isn’t a government body, rather it is an autonomous body, having its fund for maintenance. Due to its state-like functions and monopolistic behavior in the market, there have been several debates on reforming BCCI to a government body.

Now when the world hears cricket they are instantly reminded of India. Cricket as a sport is the heart and soul of India. This wasn’t a sport that was created in India. The credit goes to the British. Cricket is a British sport. Just like badminton, during the colonial time, the cricket also spread across India like wildfire. The first cricket club established by the Britishers for themselves was in Calcutta called the Calcutta Cricket Club or CCC. This being the second oldest cricket club in the world after MCC.

The cricket obsession in India started in the 1700s. Back in the day cricket was a leisure sport for the Britishers. Indian’s admiration for the sport started as spectators watching the matches between the Britishers conducted on Indian land. Eventually, the Indian army was the first to take on the sport. They used to engage in the sport against their British superiors. The first Indian community to get involved in the sport was the Parsis. They established various clubs and gymkhanas in Mumbai. Their enthusiasm for the sport encouraged other communities like Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Anglo-Indians to also engage in the sport. Apart from these the interest of the Indian Princes for cricket gained the sport a lot of fame and publicity all around India.

By the 1900s cricket was the most popular and most played sport amongst the locals in India. This interest leads to the constitution of several governing bodies in a different region in India. Due to its high popularity, the ICC considered including India as a member of the body. This required the country to have a single governing body instead of many. This led to a meeting held in Mumbai for deciding on a Provisional Board in 1928. The meeting resulted in the establishment of BCCI. After the creation of this Board, India has added to the ICC a full member. The first president of BCCI was the Maharaja of Patiala, also a British businessman named Grant Govan. Anthony De Mello became the first secretary. And the headquarters being at Mumbai, India.

BCCI has control over all matters relating to cricket in India. The powers and functions of the BCCI include the following:

To arrange, control and make rules, regulations for all cricket tournaments and matches that take place in India

To frame laws and amend the existing laws for cricket.

To employ all necessary secretaries, officers and other persons for every match

The board has the jurisdiction and power over all its personals, members and officials, among other powers.

Over the years there have been many debates as to whether BCCI should be classified as a ‘State’ under Article 12 of the Constitution of India and to bring the Board under the realm of the Right to Information Act.

Article 12 defines ‘state’ in the Constitution of India. The definition includes the following elements:

  • Government and parliament of India
  • Government and legislature of each state
  • All local authorities within the territory of India
  • Any other authorities under the control of the government of India

The government of India will have power over any authority or department that comes within the ambit of Article 12. The powers include the following:

Power to make rules, bylaws, orders, policies, directions, regulations and notifications etc.

There are three reasons as to why BCCI should be given the ‘state’ status.

  • Firstly, BCCI creates a monopoly in the market. The Board is the richest and most powerful cricket board in the world. The Board has created several regional cricket associations across India. These factors make it very difficult for any prospective competitors to enter the field.
  • Secondly. BCCI’s functions are of the public in nature. This includes a selection of the team for International tournaments and matches, which is generally performed by National Sports Federations.
  • Thirdly, BCCI is a registered society under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act in 1928. In addition to that, it’s a charitable society. This tag of a charitable society has given BCCI privileges in the form of tax exemptions, land grants, etc. These privileges enjoyed by the Board comes within the concept of ‘substantial financing’ given under section 2(h) of the RTI Act.

Once the government confirms BCCI as a ‘state’ under Article 12, it will come within the scope of the Right to Information Act. This Act is made to benefit the citizens of India by providing them access to information on public authorities and officials. Section 2(h) of the RTI Act states that a ‘public authority’ can be those that are being substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by the government. This section includes non-government organizations. And BCCI being a charitable society is very much suitable under the RTI Act.

The Law Commission has submitted several law reports to the Government, recommending the BCCI ‘State’ status and to be brought under the RTI Act. In 2004 Zee Telefilms Ltd and Anr vs. Union of India Ors (2005) 4 SCC 649, it was held that BCCI is not an instrumentality of the State and it doesn’t belong under Article 12. The same was reaffirmed in 2011 in the case of A.C. Muthiah v. BCCI & Anr (2011) 6 SCC 617

There was an initiative by the Sports Ministry in 2011 for the creation of a Sports Code and to include BCCI under the umbrella of RTI Act but it never got cleared in the cabinet. In recent years the Supreme Court decided to declare the Board of Control for Cricket in India a public body. The court can direct the body to reform through judicial orders or the body can reform on its own.

The current status is that the Supreme Court has declared BCCI a public authority under the RTI Act. But the BCCI is yet to declare this by themselves. Until they declare the information of the Board won’t be known to the public. Now the question arises as to whether the Supreme Court can declare a private body a public authority under the RTI without giving it a ‘state’ status under Article 12 of the Constitution. The answer to this is that the expression ‘public authority’ given under the RTI Act has a wider and broader meaning than ‘state’ under Article 12. Also, if it had to be it would’ve been mentioned somewhere. So BCCI can be a ‘public authority’ under the RTI Act without having a ‘State’ status under the constitution.

In M. P. Varghese v. Mahatma Gandhi University AIR 2007 Kerala 230, it was held that the definition of ‘public authority’ has a much wider meaning than that of ‘State’ under Article 12. The definition of ‘State’ under Article 12 is primarily concerning enforcement of fundamental rights. On the other hand, the RTI Act is aimed to provide an effective framework for the right to information guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India.

BCCI has been playing monopoly even since it was formed. After being registered as a charitable society under the Act, it has received substantial funding in the form of tax exemptions and land grants. The Board had exempted billions in tax in the previous years. Many of the functions and powers of the BCCI are still left disclosed to the public. Therefore, the BCCI must receive ‘State’ status under Article 12 of the Constitution as well as with ‘public authority’ status’ under the Right to Information Act.

Author: Emil Treesa Jaison from Amity University, Mumbai.

Editor: Tamanna Gupta from RGNUL, Patiala

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