STATE AFFILIATION IN INDIAN SPORTS ADMINISTRATION
Updated: Apr 7
The post has been authored by Vidushpat Singhania and Zubin Pereira Nicholas.
Vidushpat is the Managing Partner at Krida Legal and is amongst the leading Sports & Gaming lawyers in India and is well recognized and acknowledged worldwide for his advisory and consulting on betting and gambling laws, league formation and rights structuring, FEMA and Tax implications, related commercial transactions and anti-doping disputes. He is also instrumental in the drafting of several laws and policies relating to sports and gaming in various jurisdictions and has authored several publications including the title on “Law & Sports in India”, which is a leading reference work.
Zubin is a qualified lawyer who works in the Sports and Gaming Law team of Krida Legal as an Associate. He is a 2018 graduate of National Law University, Jodhpur and a 2013 graduate of the Bishop Cotton Boys’ School, Bangalore. He has worked on matters relating to Sports Federations and their transactions with reference to Leagues, Player Contracts, Contractual disputes, private transactions covering sponsorship, collaborations and so on.
The National Sports Development Code of India 2011 along with the various subsequent drafts, that have been formulated, but not yet enforced, have sought to take a top-down approach pertaining to sports administration. This approach seeks to regulate the National Sports Federation’s ("NSF") administration at the central level, through governance norms. However, it has failed to address the important aspect of who is eligible to represent a state association, at the national level.
Each NSF has state associations as its constituent members. These State associations nominate members for the post of office bearer(s) in the NSF and also have voting rights in electing the office bearers of the national sports federations. Each State association, therefore, establishes a General Body that has office-bearers e.g., the President, Vice-President, Secretary, Joint-Secretary and Treasurer. The scope, duties, and functions of these office-bearer posts are generally laid down in the constitution of the NSF.
THE STATE OF PLAY: HOW WOULD THE RESIDENCE REQUIREMENT TRANSFORM THE QUALIFICATION CRITERIA FOR NSF’S
While each of the NSF’s constitutions would generally list out disqualifying criteria for these office-bearer positions, there are no criteria that have been established to include candidates who have a clearly defined connection to the State itself. Such a connection to the State may be defined in terms of residence, service or even employment. However, no such positive assertion of qualification has been made in any of the NSF’s or the State associations' constitution.
The inclusion of such a positive qualification for one or more of the office-bearer positions would have practical as well as the legal basis for the following three reasons:
First, NSFs being entities that perform public functions are required to guarantee the protection of Part III of the Constitution of India viz., the fundamental rights to all the citizens of the country. The purpose of Article 14 of the Constitution of India is to prohibit discrimination and discriminatory laws. However, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held that a reasonable classification may be made under the right to equality as laid down under Article 14 as long as, (a) the classification is based on an intelligible differentia, and (b) the differentia adopted must have a rational nexus sought with the objective sought to be achieved by said classification.
Therefore, the insertion of a state-affiliation based qualification such as a residence is identifiable and would enforce greater participation in the administration of the sport, within each state among the residents of each state. The justification of such qualification under Article 14 of the Constitution of India is thus, evident.
Second, the qualification of residence already exists in the context of an election as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of a State. Section 5 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 lists out the qualifications of a membership of a State Legislative Assembly which includes, “in the case of any other seat, he is an elector for any Assembly constituency in that State”. The Election Commission of India’s (ECI) FAQs list out the requirements for registering to vote which includes, “enrollment as a voter if you are ordinarily resident of the part/polling area of the constituency where you want to be enrolled.”
Therefore, it is evident that the use of the residence as a criterion for qualification for a post has a basis in statutory law and consistent practice of the ECI. Several times, the office bearers of the NSF’s have argued that they are democratically elected and that restrictions on their appointment, should not be laid down. However, the basic characteristic of a democratic election that the member represents its constituents, to some extent seems to be missing from Indian sport governance.
Third and finally, such a residence requirement has already been incorporated at the cricketing level by the BCCI in the context of qualifications for cricketers to apply for member teams at the Ranji trophy. Rule 17 of the Rules of the Ranji Trophy stipulate that place of birth, the residence of service and residence of studies are among the seven different forms of qualification for a cricketer to appear for a member at the Ranji Trophy.
LEARNING THE LESSONS FROM ACROSS THE WORLD
It is interesting to note that similar residence-based requirements for eligibility are incorporated at the international level as well in the sport of football. For instance, the FIFA Statutes stipulate that a football player may represent a country’s (member association’s) national team if he has lived continuously on the territory of that country for at least two years. Further, any player may acquire eligibility to represent a particular country if that player has lived continuously on the territory of that country for at least five years after turning 18 years of age.
In World Athletics similar rules exists to determine the eligibility of an athlete, to represent a country at an international event. One of the available conditions that need to be fulfilled is residence in a country for at least three years. Fulfilment of this condition qualifies an athlete to represent that country at all international World Athletics sanctioned events.
Therefore, the use of state-affiliated conditions or residence conditions for qualification has practical import as well and has been adopted in various instances as has been shown above.
In conclusion, the adoption of residence based qualification criteria could prove to be the vital next step in the NSFs and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports’, attempt to scale up the all-round development and promotion of sports in India in a way that makes the administration of the game inclusionary and organic in nature.
Cite as: Vidushpat S. & Zubin P.N., State Affiliation in Indian Sports Administration, Extra-Cover, The Sports Law Blog of India (6th Apr 2020), Accessed at https://www.extra-cover.org/post/state-affiliation-in-indian-sports-administration [Date of Access].