EMERGING NEED OF SPORTS LAW IN INDIA

The author in this blog had discussed about sports law in India and its evolution through various case laws.


Sport is an activity that is in itself governed by certain rules and laws, and their extension towards the law of sports is the new social need of the hour. Sports is no longer a hobby or just sports. It has emerged as a commercial activity accounting for 3% of world trade today with an annual growth rate of 4.3% since 2014[1]. It has opened avenues such as marketing, trading, betting: all sorts of activities that demand a judicial angle to be precise.

The historical backdrop of sports in India goes to the times where people considered sports as a physical culture that was fueled by religious rights. However, popularity in sports has reached its zenith in India, not for such historical lineage but because it has witnessed the transformation from a hobby to a career. Economic and socio-political circumstances have caused such commercialization and consequently the increase in popularity of sports among the youth. Thus, today sports are more of a market commodity perused by a class of people with economic strengths. The ability and commitment of the players are overlooked against their economic credibility. Aspirants in the field of sports are increasing day by day resulting in more competition. Because there is such cut-throat competition, people destroy the spirit of the game and take to committing wrongs. Since the survival of the participants in the field is seen as a major challenge in the face of such competition, wrongs such as doping, fixing, and others seem easy courses of action to young people.

In the recent case of Indian Premier League, 2013, the Delhi Police arrested various famous personalities including cricketers like Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila, Ankeet Chavan alleged for spot-fixing, and Vindu Dara Singh and Gurunath Meiyappan on the charges of betting. BCCI imposed a ban upon all of them to which Sreesanth approached to the Supreme Court.[2] In another case, Ashwini Chidananda Shetty Akkunji, a prior Asian athletics champion was tested positive for doping in July 2011. An appeal in her case was taken to the Court of Arbitration by the International Association of Athletics wherein the court upheld and she was banned for two years[3].

Other cases including Ajay Jadeja v Union of India (2001)[4] deals with the writ petition by a national cricket player, Ajay Jadeja who, inter alia, challenged the 5 years long ban imposed on him by BCCI. In Rahul Mehra v Union of India (2004)[5], the petitioner seeks directions to the Government of India to ensure that BCCI & DDCA function in an accountable manner and for the objects for which they have been created and recognised by the Government, failing which the Government must withdraw its recognition and patronage from these organizations on the ground that BCCI & DCCA function as Government recognized monopolies and, as such, perform State functions of promoting cricket in the country. They cannot be permitted to function as purely private organizations without any accountability or obligation to the people of this country.

These cases have been decided in the context of laws that have no connection to sports and its specific regulations. The questions involving in these cases revolve around the issue to decide if BCCI is a state of or not.[6] For any case filed against BCCI in the Court, the BCCI contends that it is not amenable to the jurisdiction of the court since BCCI is not stated under Art. 12 of the Constitution of India. This turns the issue of the court from the actual contentions of the petitioner. The courts decide on the admissibility of the petition rather than deciding on the main issues concerning sports disputes.

Since the cases are increasing in number, is a just and quick resolution possible in our judicial system suffering from docket explosion? No! Institutions are required to be set up which have knowledge of sports and its regulations specific to each discipline. Sports law in India as of today is a collection of cases and policies by the government of India. No statue is enacted which may be called a sports law.

Other laws like torts, Intellectual Property Rights, Contract law, criminal law, labor law, public law, administrative law, competition law, human rights law, etc. are applied in sports for issues related to doping, safety, public order, scams, wager, harassment, etc. as and when the need arises. Other than this, cases of defamation and right to privacy are also common. But certain issues are very difficult to solve in the context of laws not meant for sports as such. For instance, participants may enter disputes for their non-selection or off-field disciplinary issues or disqualification from future events due to breaking rules. In addition, issues like a conflict with other players or association may also arise. Courts are often reluctant to intervene in such cases. That makes it more difficult to resolve sports issues. This brings us to the point that there is a need for independent laws relating to sports so that such cases could be resolved in a proper and just manner.

Presently, such difficult issues are solved mainly through the Alternate Dispute Resolution system. As of today, Arbitration holds well in almost all sports. Internationally, the Court of Arbitration in Sports (CAS) is established in Lausanne, Switzerland. Sports being a sensitive issue, conflicts, and disputes are resolved mainly through arbitration. This sensitive issue requires confidentiality, advice, negotiations, and fast results. Even if the parties could not come to any solution, they could easily shift to the process of litigation. But the judicial system burned with other proceedings may not successfully provide for a solution to such problems for the lack of independent sports laws.

In Indian sports jurisdiction, the Indian Council of Arbitration in Sports was set up in 2011 which was to be adjudicated by eight panelists consisting of retired judges of the Supreme Court and high courts.[7] As per the newspaper and other information available, it is not clear if such a panel is functional or not.[8] Also, if such a panel would have been functioning then it would have taken steps towards 117 cases involving doping in 2015.[9] The cases of doping are increasing for the last three years but no effective steps have been taken. Therefore, the functioning of the Indian Council of Arbitration in Sports also sounds to be in need of progress.

Thus, the commercialization of sports in India is a naked reality and moral debate on whether it is good or bad is for philosophers to cherish. The reasonable and right thing to do is to establish proper laws in sports and implement them effectively to solve problems saving the sports industry from deterioration. Intensive research is needed to be done in the subject and legislation must be passed which should contain sports policies and structural framework for governance, its legal regulations, participation, and relation with other laws of the country. Such an endeavor has several challenges that need to be met: the very basis of games is laws and rules, there are number of games at a number of platforms such as Olympics, Commonwealth, Asiad, National games, etc., which have independent rules and laws making it complex for codification. A discreet approach needs to be maintained in differentiating ‘legal framework for the administrative and regulatory purposes’ as different from the rules and laws of the games itself; and that is the need of the hour.


Reference: [1] Globe Newswire, 2022 Global Sports Market Size, Drivers, Trends and Forecast, (May 10th, 2019 16:00 ET), https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2019/05/10/1822074/0/en/2022-Global-Sports-Market-Size-Drivers-Trends-and-Forecast.htmlrts-Market-Size-Drivers-Trends-and-Forecast.html. [2] Sreesanth v. BCCI (2019) 4 SCC 660. [3] Rahul Rawat, Ashwini and Priyanka Add to Doping Shame, India Today, August 5, 2011 18:35 IST. [4] Ajay Jadeja v. Union of India (2002) 95 DLT 14. [5] Rahul Mehra v. Union of India (2004) 114 DLT 323. [6] Mohinder Amarnath v. BCCI CW 632/1989. [7] About ICA, Indian Council of Arbitration, http://www.icaindia.co.in (last visited September 21, 2019). [8] Daniela Heerdt, The Court of Arbitration for Sport: Where Do Human Rights Stand?, (May 10, 2019) https://www.ihrb.org/focus-areas/mega-sporting-events/the-court-of-arbitration-for-sport-where-do-human-rights-stand; Kianganz, Laws in sports, (January 11, 2011) https://www.legallyindia.com. [9] Timonthy Davis, What is Sports Law? Sports Law Review, http://www.veethi.com.

Submitted by:

Aditi Sharma,

Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur


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