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Saturday, 6 June 2015


Red Card: Need for a Comprehensive Sports Legislation in India

              India has provided the world with fourth largest football spectacle, in terms of average attendance, known as the Indian Super League as well as the biggest annual T-20 tournament the Indian Premier League. In addition to the prior mentioned sporting events, similar sporting events involving Tennis, Hockey, Badminton and Kabaddi have been initiated in India, with reasonable success. Hence a reasonable conclusion can be drawn that the field of sports in India has undergone a sea of change and shall continue to do so in the coming years. Sports is a field as such with the ability to draw emotion among the masses. It has the ability to unite as well as divide individuals across all age groups. Basically India as a country has finally started recognizing and appreciating the appeal of sports.

This new found love and rapid development in the field of sports has lead to the recognition of the fact that India lacks a comprehensive statutory body to govern and regulate the numerous disputes that may arise in due course of a sport.
The need for a well thought sports legislation has never been more imperative. The vast domain of sports law covers aspects ranging from labour, contract, competition, anti-trust, tort and issues pertaining to defamation and privacy rights.
Worldwide the field of sports law was established as a separate and important entity only a few decades ago, coinciding with the rise of player-agents and increased media scrutiny of sports law topics.
Sports law can be roughly categorized into Amateur, Professional and International sports. Of the prior mentioned fields with respect to India only Professional and International sports are of major concern, primarily down to the factor that India lacks a proper and substantive Amateur sports setup.
The Indian legislature post 2013 has taken rapid measures to enact a law governing the field of sports. Hence the proposed draft bill titled National Sports Development Bill, 2013 is a work in progress. The Bill does not seek to transgress upon the existing status of the National Sports Federations as well as the National Olympic Committee. The primary object of the bill is to lay emphasis upon the globally accepted practices of good governance in the Indian scenario.
Instances of malpractices such as doping, match fixing, betting and the IPL controversy involving Mr. Lalit Modi has embarrassed the nation on a global scale to such an extent where such a piece of legislative action is urgently required. Corruption is a phenomena previously unassociated with the field of sports. Hence the general direction in which sports is being conducted in India is sufficient grounds to cause worry among the lawmakers. In India the mixture of individuals looking to earn a quick buck rather than earn an honest days living has increased the levels of corruption to such an extent where it no longer is amusing. Sad fact about India is that such individuals are the ones who are tasked with responsibility of running the numerous sports administrative agencies. The deadly concoction of politicians and such individuals results in a haphazard administrative state of Indian Sports bodies. The whole saga involving Mr. K.P. S Gill drives home my point. We had a retired public servant, who was into anti-terror operations during his days, was inexplicably tasked with managing the Indian Hockey Federation for well over two decades. A person with no connection to the field of Hockey is made the top dog, end result Hockey is a dying sport. Inspite of the game being the national sport of the country, which again many people aren’t aware off, such a sorry state of affairs involving the national sport, makes me question the state of numerous other sports authorities.
The international protocols and norms of sports do not recognize limitless and undue governmental control and governance, as is the case in India, in the form of laws, rules and regulations, especially because the self-regulated bodies of sports have more or less their own internal dispute resolution mechanisms. In fact, the Indian government has had proposed to legislate sports law so as to regulate the internationally representative field of competition.[1]

International sporting authorities, to name a few WADA, UEFA, FIFA, IOC etc, all have an established internal system of dispute resolution. Of which appeal lies directly with the Court of Arbitration for Sports. Such an established mechanism ensures the protection of the rights of all athletes and sports persons.
India with respect to its growing sports leagues have failed in so far as developing a stringent statue in order to protect the interest of its sports athletes.
Arbitration is the answer for the existing lacuna in the field of law.

In India, where a sport is equated to religion and successful sportspersons achieve the status of demigods, it is imperative that sports disputes are provided all the legal protection available against enforcement of agreements which are violative of the legal policy of the country. While the ideas of party autonomy in arbitration should be upheld to the extent feasible, the approach adopted by the courts to supervise enforcement of foreign awards is in consonance with the higher aim of maintaining equality, fairness and justice in legal relationships.[2]

In sports arbitration it is observed that there exists a disparity of bargaining power between the parties to the dispute. It is usually characterized by a sports federation on one side and a penalized athlete or an official on the other (other cases might include two legal persons at loggerheads). In such a case, judicial scrutiny by national courts becomes relevant to prevent victimization of the weaker party and ensuring justice. Therefore, as per the decisions of the judgments discussed above, the position stands that any award by an international arbitral tribunal can be set aside by the Indian courts under Section 34 of the Act. In light of this, an award (including a sports arbitral award) has to undergo the scrutiny by Indian courts for enforcement in India. However, as seen earlier, Indian courts implement their supervisory powers with great circumspection. In light of this, the future of sports arbitration appears fairly bright and therefore, efforts should be made to foster such mechanism of alternate dispute resolution[3].  

About the Author: 

Abhijeet 'Loki' Andrews, is currently a final year student at Faculty of Law, IFHE, Hyderabad. Abhijeet loves writing about Sports Law and Environmental Law, whenever he is not busy playing football or skipping across the country adjudicating at Parliamentary Debates.

[1] The Saga of Sports and Law in India by Mandavi Mehrotra, RMLNLU
[2] Indian Journal of Arbitration Law Volume I, Judicial Trend of Intervention  in Sports Arbitration and Its future in India by Devyani Jain
[3] Indian Journal of Arbitration Law Volume I, Judicial Trend of Intervention  in Sports Arbitration and Its future in India by Devyani Jain


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