Editor’s note: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the BCCI to be put under the RTI Act and be answerable to the people of the country under its mechanism. As the debate rages on whether BCCI should be brought under RTI or not, we analyse how the Act would help the cricket board improve its functioning. To read the opposing viewpoint, click here.
Finally, the Central Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyalu has belled the cat. His order on Monday, directing the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) as being amenable to the Right to Information (RTI) act has to be welcomed wholeheartedly. It has taken too long coming, with no one ready to declare BCCI as being subject to the Act.
Not only should the BCCI be amenable to RTI but also its constituent associations. The principle adopted by the courts in ruling that BCCI performs the function of the State should automatically extend to the State Cricket Associations. For, that is where there is greater scope of corruption and less transparency, away from the media limelight.
It is obvious that not everything that is done under the BCCI umbrella will be liable to RTI action. Selection matters, for instance. We have not heard of any instance of an RTI activist seeking information from a National Sports Federation on its selection policies or processes. In the recent times, when an athlete has felt aggrieved, he or she had approached a court of law for redressal.
There really is no reason for BCCI to be treated any separately to the other National Sports Federations. It is a fact that BCCI has, time and again, been deemed as a National Sports Federation and as carrying out the functions of the State by many courts across the country. Still, it has managed to delay the implementation of RTI Act, which shows the political clout it enjoys.
With billions of dollars coming into the game through sale of broadcast rights and sponsorships, it is only imperative that BCCI is not only transparent and clean but also be seen as such. Being under the RTI Act will ensure that tenders are not written in such a manner as to favour someone or exclude someone else. It will improve the overall functioning of the board.
The manner in which some deals, especially of commercial nature, have gone through have raised eyebrows. For years, broadcast rights have been subject of debate and acrimony. And even though the situation may have improved now, there will always be some doubt and dissent. The fact that these will be RTI amenable will ensure greater transparency.
The auction of IPL teams would come under scrutiny. Did people within BCCI not whisper and eventually complain that not everything was above board in the auction of franchises back in 2008? Did Lalit Modi not himself raise questions about the ownership of the Kochi franchise? With the spectre of RTI looming, such deals will not be rushed through as they were back then.
There is one more area where being under the RTI Act will help BCCI improve its functioning and public image. Of course, since the way in which BCCI conducts dope tests and manages those results in domestic cricket, including IPL, will be subject to scrutiny. It can only be expected that there would be an improvement in standards of result management.
Being under RTI will ensure probity and good conduct of the board’s officials and its staff. As custodians of the great game in India, it is only fair that exemplary behaviour is expected of them, especially in areas like harassment of staff at workplace. It will ensure greater discipline among the officials and staff running the game in the country. And that cannot be wrong at all.
An unnamed BCCI office-bearer has already taken potshots at the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) for not representing BCCI’s case before the Central Information Commission. Talking to PTI, the office-bearer has gone to give three sample questions that he believes are likely to come up under RTI.
- “It could be about team selection processes and whether IPL franchises have a role in it, the share-holding patterns, the investments made.”
- “The second question will be about personal conduct of certain officials and issues like harassment of women at workplace.”
- “The third question will be even more telling. Is there a case that a junior cricketer in the Indian team is getting a long rope because of his tie-up with certain management firm of a senior player that has landed them multi-crore endorsement with a particular sports brand?”
Now, pause for a moment and consider if these are mere fears or whether the anonymous official revealing some secrets, some of which may not even come up for consideration under RTI. And, even if they do, these questions can be dealt with without upsetting either the BCCI’s applecart or its public persona as the best run sports organisation in the country.
As stated before, team selection matters can be kept out of purview of RTI. There are many organisations that are under RTI and do not part with information since the Act allows them to keep some things away from public eye. To cite an instance, the National Anti Doping Authority (NADA) has for long refrained from making its order on wrestler Narsingh Yadav’s case public.
And if some selection is being done on the basis of either an IPL franchise’s role or a management firm’s clout, it deserves to be revealed. Even without RTI. As for harassment of women in workplace, it can be surmised that even BCCI will like to follow the principles of natural justice in ensuring that it provides a safe environment for its women staff.
India has lived with RTI for more than a dozen years now and we have not heard of anyone misusing its provisions to harass an institution. If anything, it has only helped improve perception by keeping things in check. For BCCI, the credo must be very simple. Conduct the business of cricket with honesty, dignity, and transparency. Do no wrong. And fear no RTI action.