Union Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal (extreme left) at a 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games felicitation ceremony with Sachin Tendulkar on August 8 in New Delhi © IANS
Union Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal (extreme left) at a 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games felicitation ceremony with Sachin Tendulkar on August 8 in New Delhi © IANS

 

Aug 15, 2014

 

This is no sweet music for Indian cricket board. Taking a cue from one of his predecessors, sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Wednesday expressed BJP government’s keenness to bring Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) under the purview of Right to Information (RTI).

 

In his written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Sonowal said: “The government has also formulated a draft of the National Sports Development Bill to bring all the National Sports Federations and the BCCI under the RTI Act with the provision of exclusion clause of protecting personal/confidential information relating to athletes.”

 

Clearly, Sonowal’s statement is going to ruffle quite a few feathers within the ruling party. Two years ago, when UPA government was in place, the then sports minister Ajay Maken tried to bring in similar legislation to ensure transparency in the working of BCCI. But he faced stiff resistance from powerful voices within the Union cabinet and was forced to take it back and work on it again.

 

Maken’s efforts eventually failed to yield any results as he was forced out of the sports ministry later and the rich and powerful cricket lobby emerged winner.

 

The BCCI has always maintained in its defence that since it doesn’t take any government fund like other NSF’s, it cannot be brought under the RTI. With Sonowal’s latest reply, it looks like sports ministry and BCCI are again heading for a showdown over this issue in the proposed National Sports Development Bill.

 

Sonowal has also replied that government is aware of the spot-fixing allegations during the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches and that it is under investigation.

 

“Several controversies about BCCI regarding allotment of franchises, match-fixing, betting etc., reported in sections of print and electronic media, have come to the notice of the government. Various agencies of the government namely the Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax and Service Tax Department have conducted inquiries into the allegations of the irregularities involving the BCCI in the country,” stated the reply.

 

“In order to curb match-fixing and other unfair practices in sports, Ministry of Law and Justice has prepared draft legislation and has sought the views of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs,” he added.

 

To clarify government’s intentions, Sonowal said that that there is no intention of taking over the BCCI as its an autonomous body. “BCCI is an autonomous body registered under the Societies Act. It is not feasible for the government to take over and run the day to day activities of BCCI,” he said.