Governance: The National Sports Ethics Commission Bill receives Presidential assent to be tabled in Parliament

The National Sports Ethics Commission Bill (the “Bill”) is ready to be tabled in the Lok Sabha after President Ramnath Kovind cleared Anurag Thakur’s ‘Private Member’s Bill’ to be considered in Parliament. The Bill was first proposed by Anurag Thakur, a former BCCI president and current member of Parliament, in 2016. The Bill seeks to reform the laws and regulations related to sports in India and constitute an autonomous governing body to curb unfair play. The key object of the Bill is “to provide for the constitution of a National Sports Ethics Commission to ensure ethical practices and fair play in sports including elimination of doping practices, match fixing, fraud of age and sexual harassment of women in sports and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

Principally, the Bill aims at: (i) constituting an Ethics Committee and framing Codes of Ethics for sports federations; (ii) constituting a ‘National Sports Ethics Commission’ (Commission) and empowering it; and (iii) defining offences of ‘Sports Fraud’ and penalties.

The Bill mandates each sports federation to constitute an internal ‘Ethics Committee’ (Committee), and to frame a uniform ‘Code of Ethics’ for the prevention, monitoring and detection of unethical practices and offences in sports. Reports of malpractice and offences, along with evidence, are to be submitted, to the Commission in a timely manner. Also, annual reports on the Committee’s functioning and activities are to be submitted to the Commission.

The Bill requires the Central Government to constitute the Commission, as a governing body to oversee and enforce the various Codes framed by the sports federations. The proposed Commission shall consist of six members to be appointed by the Central Government, of whom at least four members shall have been judges of the Supreme Court or a High Court. Under the Bill, the Commission is conferred with various powers, duties and functions to be discharged with reasonable fairness. These include – (a) ordering reports from a sports federation against a sportsperson regarding commission of an offence, (b) framing guidelines for annual reports, (c) directing a sports federation to amend its Code in consonance with the law, and (d) hearing and adjudicating cases relating to any civil matters where a sports federation is impleaded as a party.

The Bill delineates offences supplementary to those under existing laws and administrative penalties for (a) sexual harassment, (b) match fixing, (c) age or gender fraud, (d) doping and substance abuse and (e) failure to comply with the regulations of the Commission. The Bill also envisages criminal penalties along with a range of fines for all the aforesaid offences. The Commission is also empowered to take appropriate action for applications that are deemed frivolous or mala fide.

The Bill represents a significant intent to reform the laws and regulations related to ethical practices and fair play in Indian sport. It recognises the independence of tenure and functioning of the Commission to ensure unbiased and effective implementation of the Codes adopted by the sports federations. The Bill further attempts to create a penal environment to deter the commission of acts that erode sports integrity.

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