Written by Adarsh Tripathi
The National Sports Code of 2011 in India is a pivotal document that outlines the guidelines and regulations governing the administration and development of sports in the country. This comprehensive code was formulated with the aim of promoting transparency, accountability, and fairness in sports governance, thereby facilitating the growth and nurturing of athletic talent in India. Through its provisions, the National Sports Code has played a crucial role in shaping the structure of sports organizations, ensuring proper management, fostering athlete welfare, and encouraging the spirit of inclusivity and meritocracy within the Indian sporting ecosystem. With its emphasis on creating a robust framework for sports administration, the code has been instrumental in revolutionizing the Indian sports landscape and paving the way for the nation's athletes to strive for excellence on both national and international stages.
Prior to the implementation of the National Sports Code in 2011, the sports governance landscape in India faced numerous obstacles and lacked a unified structure. The situation was characterized by fragmented administration and a lack of regulations, leading to inefficiencies, controversies, and a dearth of transparency within sports organizations.
During this period, sports bodies operated with significant autonomy, resulting in inconsistent policies, arbitrary decision-making, and insufficient mechanisms for accountability. Without standardized guidelines, each sports federation had its own rules and regulations, resulting in disparities in governance practices across different sports disciplines. This decentralized approach hindered the overall development and advancement of Indian sports.
Need For A Comprehensive Sports Code?
The necessity for a comprehensive sports code became increasingly apparent due to various factors. Firstly, there was a growing recognition that effective governance is essential for the development of sports and the well-being of athletes. Improved administration and transparency were seen as pivotal in nurturing talent, creating a favourable environment, and promoting fairness in sports.
Secondly, the absence of uniformity and transparency in sports governance had led to allegations of corruption, favouritism, and mismanagement within numerous sports organizations. These controversies tarnished the reputation of Indian sports and eroded public trust. It became imperative to address these concerns and restore credibility through a robust and accountable system.
Moreover, the need for a comprehensive sports code stemmed from the aspiration to align Indian sports with international standards and best practices. As India aimed to become a prominent sporting nation on the global stage, it became essential to establish a framework that would enable Indian athletes to compete at the highest level and bring honour to the nation. Recognizing these challenges and aspirations, the introduction of the National Sports Code in 2011 aimed to provide a consolidated and standardized set of guidelines for sports governance in India. This code sought to address the deficiencies of the pre-2011 era and lay the groundwork for a more transparent, accountable, and inclusive sports ecosystem in the country.
National Sports Development Bill, 2011
Shri Ajay Maken, the former Union Minister for Youth Affairs & Sports, unveiled the revised draft of the National Sports Development Bill in 2011. During a press conference, Shri Maken provided details about the modifications made in the Bill, emphasizing the aim of streamlining it while upholding its core principles of transparency, good governance, and reducing government intervention. Special attention was given to address concerns regarding perceived interference from the Sports Ministry in sports affairs. Shri Maken also mentioned that the draft Bill was shared with the Indian Olympic Association and recognized National Sports Federations via post and email, inviting their feedback and suggestions within a two-week timeframe.
Summary Of Broad Changes Made In The Bill
1) The discretion of the Government to recognize National Olympic Committee and National Sports Federation has been eliminated. In the event the Central Government feels that these criteria have not been met or there is any other discrepancy/dispute, the Central Government can refer the matter to an Independent Appellate Sports Tribunal [Section18(4) & Section 23];
2) A provision of deemed registration has also been inserted in the Bill in order to avoid duplicity of work. A certificate of registration once issued would continue to be in force until the time such a registration is suspended or cancelled by the Appellate Sports Tribunal [Section 19 & 22];
3) In order to retain funds for the development of sports in the country, a provision has been made that all penalties that are levied by the Appellate Sports Tribunal would vest with the National Sports Development Fund Scheme; [Section 50]
4) Whereas at one end transparency has been sought to be inculcated by the applicability of the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2011 to the sports federations, an exclusion clause has also been provided to protect certain information which are peculiar to sports, which may be used by our competitors against our athletes. These are:
a. Queries pertaining to selection, appointment or exclusion of athlete, coach, trainer or physiotherapist when it for participation in an athletic competition;
b. Queries pertaining to the quality of performance of an athlete in an athletic competition;
c. Queries relating to the medical health and fitness of an athlete;
d. Queries relating to the whereabouts of an athlete;
e. Queries pertaining to information which is confidential under the NADA code.
It is however to be noted that this exception in the Right to Information Act does not bar the aggrieved party in initiating action against any erring party whether it is the Sports Authority of India, National Olympic Committee, National Sports Federation or the Central Government. [Section 47]
In order to streamline the Bill, the offices of the Sports Ombudsman and the National Sports Development Council have now been removed. The office of the Sports Ombudsman has been removed in order to accommodate the formation of the Indian Court of Arbitration for Sports by the Indian Olympic Association. The other duties of these bodies have either been allocated to the National Sports Federation itself or the Appellate Sports Tribunal;
5) The sports sector worldwide is structured in a very peculiar way, where the Court of Arbitration for Sports based in Lausanne has an exclusive jurisdiction to decide certain disputes. In order to retain this worldwide structure a provision has been inserted in the Bill excluding the jurisdiction of the Appellate Sports Tribunal in these cases; [Section 28]
6) The independence of the Appellate Sports Tribunal has sought to be ensured in totality. Therefore, the power to appoint the Chairperson and other members of the Appellate Sports Tribunal has been granted to an independent Selection Committee which is to be chaired by the Chief Justice of India or his nominee and also has a representation from the National Olympic Committee. The discretion to remove a member of the Appellate Sports Tribunal now vests with the Chief Justice of India who would be conducting a enquiry according to a specific procedure laid down by him; [Section 30 & 35]
1) Clarity has been inducted in the provisions of the Bill, which now bars the Minister in charge of department of sports or any other official of the department of sports in the Central Government or an officer of the Sports Authority of India to contest election in a National Olympic Committee or the National Sports Federations for a period of five years; [Section 24(3)]
2) Specific clause has been inserted in the anti-doping provision to exclude applicability of those provisions of the WADA/NADA Code to which an International Federation is not subject. This has been done since NADA functions under the WADA Code and if at the international level there are certain provisions of the WADA Code to which the International Federation is not subject, then the logical corollary is that those provisions should not be administered by NADA on the sport of that National Federation. [ Section 15(1)]
3) The eligibility criteria for the National Sports Federation to get recognition have been reduced for instance the criteria stating that the National Sports Federation should have been in existence for three years has been deleted. This has been done in order to promote new sports which are developing/being actively played in India to be recognized by the Government; [Section 20]
4) The detailed provision requiring the approval of the Central Government for the formulation of the Long-Term Development Plan and the appointment of a Government Observer to monitor the adherence to this LTDP has been removed, in order to secure the autonomy of the sports federations;
5) The provision for registering playing fields with the National Playing Fields Association of India has been removed. Instead, the duty has now been enjoined upon the Central Government and the National Sports Federations to secure the availability of playing fields to the athletes; [Section 3 & 12(b)]
6) A duty has been enjoined upon the coaches, guardians and other support personnel to prevent unethical practices in sports like doping, fraud of age and sexual harassment; [Section 15,16 &17]
7) The Central Government has undertaken a duty to specifically promote Paralympic and Special Olympic Sports; [Section 3(2)(f)]
8) The Central Government has also undertaken a duty to make provisions for continuing education of the athletes, healthcare and pension for the athletes. [Section 3(2)(e)]
What Should Be The Way Forward?
In order for India to establish itself as a leading sports nation, several key points need to be addressed. First and foremost, there is a need for substantial investment in infrastructure. This entails constructing modern facilities that adhere to international standards for sports training, sport medicine, research, and analysis across all major sports. It is crucial to ensure that attention is given to a diverse range of sports and that the quality of infrastructure is extended even to the village level. Regional centers should also be established to cater to individuals who are serious about pursuing their chosen sport professionally.
Another critical aspect is the implementation of effective legislation to support sports authorities. Without robust legal frameworks in place, the functioning of these authorities may lack efficacy, and there is a risk of undue political interference. By enacting well-drafted legislation, anomalies can be reduced, and a system of checks and balances can be established.
Furthermore, there is a need to restructure the governance and management of the Indian sports sector. Clear roles and responsibilities should be defined among the various entities involved to optimize resource utilization and ensure there are no gaps in meeting the demands of the sports industry. However, this restructuring process should be collaborative and inclusive, involving professionals in strategic and management positions.
Creating widespread sports awareness is another crucial aspect. By integrating sports into children's daily lives, not only will their confidence, self-image, and personality be enhanced, but it will also provide them with opportunities for potential careers in sports. To achieve this, a bottom-up approach is necessary, starting from the primary education level. The education system should be revamped to assign equal importance to sports in the holistic upbringing of children.
India also has the potential to become a training hub for various sports, such as Kabaddi and Cricket, at an international level. The country boasts a wealth of coaching talent with vast experience in different sports. By leveraging this expertise, India can position itself as a preferred destination for training athletes. An illustrative example is Iten, a small town in Kenya. Over the past few decades, Iten has produced more than 10 world champions in athletics. Nearly every middle-distance runner in the world has visited Iten for training at least once in their lifetime.
By addressing these points, India can make significant strides in its journey toward becoming a leading sports nation, fostering talent, and achieving excellence across a wide range of sporting disciplines.
In conclusion, the National Sports Code of 2011 has undoubtedly made a profound impact on sports governance and development in India. Through its provisions for transparency, accountability, athlete welfare, and inclusivity, the code has brought about positive changes in the administration of sports organizations. It has paved the way for fair play, improved athlete support, and gender equality in Indian sports.
The achievements of the National Sports Code are evident in the enhanced transparency and reduced government intervention in sports affairs. The code has fostered a more streamlined and structured approach to sports administration, facilitating collaboration among various stakeholders, including the government, sports authorities, and national sports federations.
Furthermore, the code's focus on athlete welfare has contributed to the overall development of sports in India. It has created opportunities for talent identification, provided better training infrastructure, and ensured the welfare and rights of athletes are protected.
While the National Sports Code has achieved notable successes, it is important to recognize that there may be ongoing challenges and areas for improvement. Continuous evaluation and potential revisions may be necessary to address emerging issues and align the code with evolving global best practices.
Overall, the National Sports Code of 2011 stands as a crucial milestone in Indian sports governance, promoting transparency, fairness, and the holistic development of athletes. As India continues to strive for excellence in the world of sports, the code remains an essential framework for shaping the future of sports administration, athlete welfare, and the nation's sporting achievements.
*The author is a law scholar from Army Institute of Law, Mohali.
(The image used here is for representative purposes only)