Among the important questions that come to mind when one discusses sports law in our country, is the dispute resolution mechanism and its challenges. India has seen an unprecedented rise in overall sports in recent times, ranging from state and national to international level tournaments.
The Indian sports industry has witnessed an increase in revenue from forty-three billion rupees in 2013 to forty-eight billion rupees in 2015. Further, it is estimated to have crossed fifty-two billion rupees in between 2018-2019. The country has moved forward from a single sports nation to a multiple sports nation and is witnessing a boom in the sports sector causing players and sports businesses to leverage the opportunity.
Due to the absence of a dedicated law in the entire country, the National Sports Development Code, 2011 is the legislation that has been enacted to govern all National Sports Federations in India. The ambit of the Code has been questioned. However, it is to be noted that sports form a part of the State List under Entry 33, 7th Schedule of the Constitution of India, 1950 and therefore the validity of the Code has been upheld by the High Court of Delhi in Olympic Association of India v. UOI.
However, if a dispute emerges from such a competitive and dynamic industry, remedies that an athlete can avail in India are limited, given the lack of dispute resolution mechanisms in the country. Lack of legislation, appropriate tribunals made by National Sports Federations and lack of knowledge about rights are few of the biggest challenges faced by an athlete while seeking justice in India.
With the huge amount of money involved and the surfacing of many international players in domestic tournaments, namely, Indian Super League, Indian Premier League etc., the need for a dispute resolution body in India has also increased.
The sport legislations in India mainly cover the disputes which arise from corruption, betting, or doping. Lack of jurisdiction and knowledge of these legislations are largely responsible for the delayed and biased judgments given in the cases of athletes.
NEED FOR INDIAN COURT OF ARBITRATION:
Arbitration, being a form of alternative dispute resolution mechanism (ADR), is a lawful strategy for the goal of debates outside the courts, wherein the gatherings to a contest allude it to at least one people (the “arbitrators”, “arbiters” or “arbitral tribunal”), by whose choice (the “grant”) they consent to be bound. It is a settlement procedure where an outsider audits the case and forces a choice that is lawfully authoritative for the two sides. Mediation (a form of settlement negotiation facilitated by a neutral third party) and non-binding resolution by experts are other forms that may also be used. The Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 (Indian Arbitration Act), which is based on the UNCITRAL Model Law governs the arbitration process in India.
In 2011, a governing body called Indian Court of Arbitration was set up by the Indian Olympic Association under the Chairmanship of former Supreme Court Judge and Law Commission Chairman, Dr. A.R. Lakshmanan. The body was formed to resolve all the sports related disputes in India. Since 2011, however, there is no available news or information of the validity or functionality of the governing body.
The case of Rajiv Dutta vs Union of India in 2015, emphasized on the need for an arbitration clause in the contracts of athletes. The Delhi High Court ordered the National Sports Federation as well as the Government to incorporate the needful and the Government (Ministry of Youth Affairs) also sent a notice to the National Sports Federation to insert the clauses and give importance to dispute resolution. However, not many steps have been taken to implement the creation of Arbitration bodies.
Many tournaments like the Hockey League and the Indian Premier League consist of standard player contracts, not leaving much room for negotiation and young players/athletes with lack of knowledge and resources or power of negotiation must sign these contracts to be eligible to play in the Leagues.
Many National Sports Federations in India have internal bodies for dispute resolution, usually biased and un-objective, not leaving the parties with any choice of appointing an arbitrator of their choosing.
The Supreme Court in the case of Madhya Pradesh Triathlon Association vs Indian Triathlon Association also gave importance to the establishment of an arbitration tribunal for sports in India, which can deal with domestic disputes arising out of Sports or contracts.
REASONS FOR ESTABLISHING A GOVERNING BODY:
- Quick resolutions: The governing body would be able to provide quick or fast resolutions which are more beneficial for an athlete than the slow and more expensive civil cases. The careers of athletes are limited, and these quick resolutions can provide for a better resolution to the athletes and their careers.
- Chance of Appeal: The ICAS as a body can have a law which allows the parties to appeal to the CAS. Under section 9 and 17 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, the parties can file an appeal to the CAS (any of the bodies) against the arbitration award.
One observes that various specialized institutions have been incorporated in various jurisdictions to deal with arbitration in sports law. For example, in China, the Asian Council for Arbitration in Sports (ACAS) was established to achieve this objective. Further, the involvement of the Olympic Councils would only lead to diversification of the process. Additionally, this diversification coupled with involvement of the expert individuals in resolving sports dispute would act as a buffer system and bring the opinion of an expert to the table of resolution.
Lack of awareness in relation to sports law is extremely restricted in India which in turn is having an unfavorable impact on games in India. Numerous athletes are unconscious of the rights and laws of the games they play. CAS gives a privilege to the sportsperson to seek an award inside a time span, rather than waiting for a long trial. As a sportsperson is largely dependent on the Federations, they lack much information as they are not aware of their rights.
It is observed that sports as a field is evolving therefore disputes plaguing the industry also are inevitable. Hence, the needs of the sports community are to be met with a system of fast and just resolution. Absence of awareness and sense from the judiciary or advocates in sports related matters also plays a huge role in delayed and unjust decisions given in such matters. It is imperative that the learned arbitrators seek to provide a dispute mechanism to the athletes.
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