THE Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was formed in 1928 as an unregistered association of persons. It was registered only in 1940 under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. It was later registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975, which came into effect on April 22, 1978.

Facts about its inception notwithstanding, the legal status of the BCCI continues to be problematic. Is the BCCI a “public authority”? If so, is it not duty-bound to answer queries under the Right to Information Act? In its written statement submitted to the Central Information Commission (CIC), the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports maintained on December 14, 2011, that the BCCI was on a par with other national sports federations and had been availing itself of various government benefits, such as customs duty and income tax exemptions. Describing this as indirect funding of the BCCI, the government asked the CIC to treat the Board as an entity financed substantially by the government, and therefore, qualifying as a “public authority” under the RTI Act.

The Central government pointed out that all civic and security services were provided by the Central or State governments concerned for organising BCCI sporting events. The hidden costs of expenditure on security, visa clearances, and so on were borne by the Centre and the State governments concerned, the Ministry told the CIC. Many State governments have provided land at concessional rates, much below the prevailing market prices, for the construction of cricket stadia. The Ministry claimed that the BCCI was performing functions akin to state functions and also performing public duties by selecting national teams and representing India in international events. The CIC’s three-member Bench has reserved its verdict in the case.

In the case of Zee Telefilms Ltd. vs Union of India, the Centre told the Supreme Court’s five-judge Bench that it granted de facto recognition to the BCCI as the apex national body for regulating the game of cricket in India. The BCCI, however, denied that the government had granted any recognition to it. The majority of the three judges in this case held that the BCCI was not an instrumentality of the state even though it exercised public duties or state functions. Earlier, in another case, the Supreme Court had held that having regard to the enormity of power exercised by it, the Board was to follow the doctrine of fairness and good faith in all its activities. It had a duty to act reasonably, the court had ruled.

The BCCI’s status is the subject matter of another three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, which has not completed its hearing. The verdict of this Bench and that of the CIC will hopefully lead to clarity about the BCCI’s legal status.

V. Venkatesan