Bowing to the BCCI's objections, the Sports Ministry on Monday decided to exempt cricketers from some World Anti-Doping Agency rules, including the contentious 'whereabouts clause', in the revised National Sports Development Bill.
Sports Minister Ajay Maken told a press conference here that the revised Bill has allowed the national bodies to follow the rules of their international federations which are in conflict with the WADA norms.
"In view of the BCCI's objections, we have decided to exempt cricketers from some anti-doping norms. The ICC does not follow some WADA norms and in these cases the rules of international federation, in this case the ICC, will prevail over the WADA Code," Maken said.
"It is not that the WADA Code will not apply to cricketers but in those cases where there is conflict, the ICC rules will prevail. It is also not an exemption to BCCI, it is to the ICC," he said.
Last year, the ICC had decided not to follow the contentious 'whereabouts' clause of WADA, which required the cricketers to provide information of their availability for test for few hours in a day for three months in advance, on the objection of Indian cricketers and the BCCI.
The revised Bill, which will be re-sent to the Cabinet after it asked the ministry to rework on certain provisions, retained other contentious provisions including the age and tenure limitation of the Indian Olympic Association and National Sports Federations officials.
The offices of the Sports Ombudsman and the National Sports Development Council have been removed from the earlier Bill.
An exclusion clause has also been inserted in the Right to Information Act to protect certain information pertaining to selection and appointment of athletes and coaches, performance of an athlete and relating to health, fitness and doping issues.
As many as 14 changes have been made to the original bill that was rejected by the cabinet.
A specific clause has been inserted in the revised Bill - Section 15(1) - which would exclude applicability of those provisions of the WADA/NADA Code to which an international federation is not subject.
"This has been done since NADA functions under the WADA Code and if at the international level there are certain provisions of the WADA Code to which the international federation is not subject, then the logical corollary is that those provisions should not be administered by NADA on the sport of that NSF," Maken said.
Maken said he was hopeful of getting the revised Bill cleared by the Cabinet though the sticky issues, including those pertaining to age and tenure limitations still remain.
When the Bill was presented to the Cabinet last month, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who is also the current ICC chief and a former BCCI boss, and his colleagues Farooq Abdullah and Praful Patel had strongly objected to certain provisions, including those related to doping, age and tenure limitations.
"Efforts have been made to streamline the Bill while retaining basic principles of transparency, good governance and de-control from government. Serious consideration has been given to remove the perception that the Ministry was seeking to directly interfere in sports. So, I am hopeful that the revised Bill will get Cabinet's approval," Maken said.
"We have sent the revised Bill to IOA and all recognised National Sports Federations to send their comments/suggestions within two weeks," he added.
In order to streamline the Bill, the offices of the Sports Ombudsman and the National Sports Development Council have now been removed.
The office of the Sports Ombudsman has been removed in order to accommodate the formation of the Indian Court of Arbitration for Sports by the IOA. The other duties of these bodies have either been allocated to the National Sports Federation itself or the Appellate Sports Tribunal.
The revised Bill has added an exclusion clause to restrict application of the Right to Information Act to sports federations to protect certain information which are peculiar to sports.
Queries pertaining to selection, appointment or exclusion of athlete, coach, trainer or physiotherapist, to the quality of performance of an athlete in a competition, to health and fitness of an athlete, to whereabouts of an athlete and information which is confidential under the NADA Code will be excluded from the RTI Act.
"This has been done to ensure that our athletes are not in a disadvantageous position as compared to our competitors from other countries by revealing the health condition of our players. This issue was raised by many former and current athletes," he said.
The annual registration of the NSFs required for their continued recognition has been done away with the concept of one-time recognition being introduced which Maken said would be a relief for the federations.
"The discretion of the Government to recognise a National Olympic Committee and National Sports Federation has been eliminated. In the event the Central Government feels that these criteria have not been met or there is any other discrepancy/dispute, the Central Government can refer the matter to an Independent Appellate Sports Tribunal.
"A provision of deemed registration has also been inserted in the Bill in order to avoid duplicity of work. A certificate of registration once issued would continue to be in force until the time such a registration is suspended or cancelled by the Appellate Sports Tribunal.
"The eligibility criteria for NSFs to get recognition have been reduced. For instance, the criteria stating that the National Sports Federation should have been in existence for three years has been deleted. This has been done in order to promote new sports which are developing/being actively played in India to be recognised by the Government," he said.
"The detailed provision requiring approval of the Central Government for formulation of Long Term Development Plan and the appointment of a Government Observer to monitor the adherence to this LTDP has been removed in order to secure the autonomy of the sports federations" Maken added.
The Central Government has also undertaken a duty to make provisions for continuing education of the athletes and health care and pension for them. [Section 3(2)(e)] In order to ensure the independence of the Appellate Sports Tribunal, the power to appoint its chairperson and other members has been granted to an independent Selection Committee which is to be chaired by the Chief Justice of India or his nominee and will also have representation from the IOA.
The discretion to remove a member of the Appellate Sports Tribunal now wrests with the Chief Justice of India who would be conducting a inquiry according to a specific procedure laid down by him.
The revised Bill also has provisions which bar the minister or any other official of the department of sports in the Central Government or an officer of the Sports Authority of India from contesting elections for IOA and NSF posts for a period of five years after the end of their tenure.
The provision for registering playing fields with the National Playing Fields Association of India has been removed.
Instead, the duty has now been enjoined upon the Central Government and the National Sports Federations to secure the availability of playing fields to the athletes.
A duty has been enjoined upon the coaches, guardians and other support personnel to prevent unethical practices in sports like doping, fraud of age and sexual harassment.
Under the revised Bill, the Central Government has undertaken a duty to specifically promote Paralympic and Special Olympic Sports.