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Written by Adarsh Tripathi


Over the past ten years, the sports landscape in India has experienced significant changes and progress. One notable development has been the proliferation of professional sports leagues throughout the country. Recognizing the need for updated regulations to govern these leagues and their substantial financial impact, stakeholders in the industry decided to revise the existing National Sports Development Code of 2011. Consequently, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports established a committee to draft a new code. However, when the draft was presented, it faced opposition from the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the ministry, and other groups. As a result, the code has remained in a state of uncertainty since then.


The discussion on good governance in sports has been ongoing for many years, starting as early as 1975. One of the main areas of contention has been age and tenure limits. Although some provisions existed during that time, they were not properly formalized. The situation changed with the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which exposed severe mismanagement and corruption within the organizing committee. This revelation led to widespread public outrage and increased scrutiny on sports administrators in India. Consequently, the 2011 National Sports Development Code was formulated as a response to address these concerns.

The 2011 code provided broad guidelines on governance, including provisions for elections and term limits. It gained recognition as legally binding through various decisions by high courts and the Supreme Court. However, certain sports associations have faced compliance issues, and the sports ministry has been criticized for failing to ensure adherence to the code by national federations.

In response to these compliance issues, lawyers and sports activists have taken matters into their own hands to hold associations accountable for violating the code. One prominent figure in this campaign is Rahul Mehra, a respected barrister and sports activist who has filed Public Interest Litigations (PILs) against the Indian Olympic Association and several sports federations.

Another significant event that influenced sports governance was the 2013 IPL match-fixing and betting scandal. The judiciary played a crucial role in addressing the issue by establishing the Mudgal Committee to investigate the matter. Subsequently, the Lodha Committee was formed to strengthen governance and management in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and ensure compliance with the regulations outlined in the 2011 code.

Considering these developments and the growing influence of sports leagues in India, the first attempt to create an improved sports code was made in 2015. Under the guidance of Justice Mahajan, a committee was formed with the aim of crafting a code that would align with the current situation. However, the Mahajan draft was never implemented. Nonetheless, it served as a reference point when fresh efforts were made in 2016 to create the 2017 draft National Code for Good Governance in Sport.

Overall, the sports governance landscape in India has been shaped by significant incidents, legal interventions, and ongoing efforts to enhance transparency and accountability in sports administration.

Implementation Of National Sports Code

The implementation of the National Sports Code in India has been a topic of significant debate and discussion in recent years. The National Sports Code is a set of guidelines and regulations introduced by the Government of India to regulate the functioning and administration of national sports federations in the country. It aims to bring transparency, accountability, and good governance to the sports sector. In this article, we will delve into the various aspects of the implementation of the National Sports Code in India.

The National Sports Code was first formulated by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in 2011 and subsequently revised in 2017. It outlines the criteria and requirements for the recognition and funding of national sports federations in India. The primary objective of the code is to ensure that sports federations operate in a transparent and democratic manner, promoting fairness, integrity, and the development of sports in the country.

One of the key provisions of the National Sports Code is the requirement for sports federations to adhere to a democratic and inclusive governance structure. The code mandates that federations should conduct regular elections, have term limits for office bearers, and provide equal representation to athletes, coaches, and other stakeholders in decision-making processes. By promoting democratic practices, the code aims to prevent concentration of power, promote accountability, and ensure the voices of all stakeholders are heard.

Another crucial aspect of the National Sports Code is the establishment of transparent and accountable financial practices within sports federations. The code mandates that federations should maintain proper financial records, undergo annual audits, and disclose their sources of income and expenditure. These measures aim to curb corruption, financial mismanagement, and the misuse of funds, thus ensuring that resources are utilized effectively for the development of sports.

The National Sports Code also emphasizes the need for fair and unbiased selection processes for athletes to represent the country at various levels. It promotes the establishment of selection committees comprising independent and qualified individuals who evaluate athletes based on merit and performance. This provision helps prevent favoritism, nepotism, and other unfair practices, ensuring that deserving athletes get the opportunity to represent India and excel in their respective sports.

In addition to these provisions, the National Sports Code emphasizes the importance of anti-doping measures, gender equality, and the welfare of athletes. It requires sports federations to adhere to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) guidelines, implement anti-doping education programs, and provide equal opportunities and support to male and female athletes. The code also focuses on athlete welfare, including provisions for insurance, medical support, and the prevention of harassment and abuse.

While the National Sports Code aims to bring positive changes to the sports ecosystem in India, its implementation has faced several challenges. One major hurdle is resistance from certain sports federations who argue that the code interferes with their autonomy and independence. Some federations have raised concerns about the code's provisions, claiming they are impractical or incompatible with the specific requirements of their sports.

Another challenge is the lack of awareness and understanding among sports federations, athletes, and other stakeholders regarding the National Sports Code. Many are unaware of the specific requirements and obligations outlined in the code, leading to non-compliance and confusion. Therefore, effective communication, education, and capacity-building initiatives are essential to ensure that all stakeholders understand the code and its implications.

Furthermore, the implementation of the National Sports Code requires a coordinated effort between the central government, state governments, and sports federations. It requires the alignment of policies, allocation of resources, and the establishment of monitoring mechanisms to ensure compliance. This coordination can be challenging due to the complex administrative structure of Indian sports, involving multiple stakeholders and jurisdictions.

To address these challenges and enhance the implementation of the National Sports Code, various steps can be taken. First and foremost, there should be greater dialogue and consultation between the government, sports federations, athletes, and other stakeholders. This would help address concerns, clarify provisions, and build consensus on the way forward. Regular interaction and feedback mechanisms can foster a collaborative approach and ensure that the code reflects the diverse needs and realities of Indian sports.

Additionally, capacity-building programs should be conducted to educate sports federations, athletes, coaches, and administrators about the National Sports Code. Workshops, seminars, and training sessions can be organized to explain the code's provisions, share best practices, and address any queries or misconceptions. This would enable stakeholders to better understand their roles and responsibilities and contribute effectively to the implementation of the code.

Moreover, the government should establish a robust monitoring and evaluation mechanism to oversee the implementation of the National Sports Code. This could involve the creation of an independent regulatory body or the strengthening of existing agencies responsible for sports governance. The monitoring body should be empowered to assess compliance, investigate complaints, and take appropriate actions in case of non-compliance. Regular audits and performance reviews can help track progress, identify challenges, and suggest improvements in the implementation process.

In conclusion, the implementation of the National Sports Code in India is a significant step towards promoting transparency, accountability, and good governance in the sports sector. While there are challenges to overcome, effective implementation can lead to a more inclusive, fair, and vibrant sports ecosystem in the country. By adhering to the code's provisions, sports federations can enhance their credibility, attract investments, and foster the development of sports at all levels. The combined efforts of the government, sports federations, athletes, and other stakeholders are crucial to ensuring the successful implementation of the National Sports Code and realizing its vision of a robust and thriving sports culture in India.

Case Laws

1. Zee Telefilms Ltd. & Another v. Union of India (2005)[i]: This case challenged the monopoly of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and sought the recognition of cricket as a national sport. The Supreme Court held that the BCCI, as a private body, was not subject to the jurisdiction of the Right to Information Act. However, it observed that the BCCI performed a public function and recommended that it adopt transparency and accountability measures.

2. Indian Olympic Association (IOA) v. Union of India (2013[ii]): The case addressed the issue of IOA's non-compliance with the age and tenure limits prescribed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The Delhi High Court directed the IOA to amend its constitution to align with the IOC guidelines and recognized the importance of following international norms in sports governance.

3. Rahul Mehra v. Union of India & Others (2016)[iii]: This Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by sports activist Rahul Mehra against various sports federations, including the IOA, Hockey India, and the Archery Association of India, for non-compliance with the National Sports Development Code. The Delhi High Court directed the government to ensure compliance with the code and take necessary action against non-compliant federations.

4. Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) v. Cricket Association of Bihar (2016)[iv]: In this case, the Supreme Court constituted the Lodha Committee to recommend structural reforms in the BCCI and ensure compliance with the 2011 National Sports Development Code. The Lodha Committee's recommendations, including age and tenure limits for BCCI office bearers, transparency measures, and changes in governance structure, were accepted and implemented by the Supreme Court.

These are just a few examples of prominent cases related to the implementation of sports codes in India.


In conclusion, the journey towards achieving good governance in sports in India has been marked by a series of significant events and challenges. The need for a robust sports code became evident with the 2010 Commonwealth Games scandal, which highlighted the urgent need for transparency and accountability in sports administration. The subsequent formulation of the 2011 National Sports Development Code aimed to address these concerns and set guidelines for governance in various areas, such as elections and term limits.

However, despite being deemed legally binding, the code faced compliance issues, leading to public outcry and legal interventions. Sports activists like Rahul Mehra took it upon themselves to hold sports associations accountable for code violations, emphasizing the importance of adhering to established principles.

The IPL match-fixing and betting case in 2013 further exposed the need for improved governance and prompted the establishment of committees to investigate and strengthen the management of sports bodies. These efforts aimed to ensure compliance with the 2011 code and enhance the overall integrity of sports organizations, particularly the BCCI.

Furthermore, the recognition of the growing prominence of sports leagues in India prompted the drafting of new sports codes in 2015 and 2017. Despite initial setbacks and challenges in implementing these drafts, the discussions and revisions demonstrated a commitment to adapting governance practices to the evolving sports landscape.

While the journey towards good governance in Indian sports continues, it is clear that the discourse on this topic has gained momentum over the years. The efforts to establish effective regulations, the interventions of the judiciary, and the initiatives taken by sports activists signify a collective recognition of the importance of transparency, fairness, and accountability in sports administration.

Moving forward, it is essential for all stakeholders, including sports associations, government bodies, and sports enthusiasts, to work collaboratively in upholding the principles of good governance. Only through consistent adherence to established codes and continuous evaluation and improvement can Indian sports truly achieve the highest standards of integrity and excellence.

*The author is a law scholar from Army Institute of Law, Mohali.

(The image used here is for representative purposes only)


[i]AIR 2005 SC2677, 2005 (1) SCALE 666, (2005) 4 SCC 649

[ii] W.P.(C) No. 2310 of 2012

[iii] W.P.(C) 11362/2015

[iv] AIR 1993 SC 892


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