In the recent years, there have been many instances where national sports governing bodies were de-recognized for not complying with the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011 (Code). The Code is a collection of various documents issued by the Government over the past few decades concerning a wide range of subjects related to sports at the national and international level. The following is an attempt to demystify the major provisions of the Code that apply to sports governing bodies.
What is the legal status of the Code?
The Code was notified by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India (Government) in 2011, with an aim of bringing together all notifications and instructions pertaining to good governance of National Sports Federations. The Code supersedes of all earlier instructions on the subject. Various High Courts and the Supreme Court have upheld the binding nature of the provisions of the Code.
What entities are covered by the Code? Are regional/State associations covered?
The Code largely governs the functioning of national level sports governing bodies, officially termed as “National Sports Federations” (NSF). Under the Code, NSFs are fully accountable for the management, direction, promotion, and sponsorship of the discipline for which they are recognized by the relevant International Federation. Any entity that seeks to attain recognition as an NSF in the future also needs to abide by the Code. Such recognition is granted as per the Code. The Code also regulates certain functions of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) that relate to NSFs. Nothing in the Code applies directly to regional or state associations, but through the rules applied on NSFs, certain obligations might be imposed indirectly on the regional/state bodies. The question of whether the larger restrictions contained in the Code apply to state bodies is presently under consideration before the Delhi High Court.
What is covered by the Code?
The Code lays down eligibility conditions for recognition of NSFs, the application process and consequences for non-compliance (suspension/withdrawal). It also provides for other functional aspects of NSFs: elections, government funding, Long Term Development Plans (LTDP) and selection of national teams. It provides for the categorization of sports, cultural exchange, prevention of age fraud and sexual harassment, anti-doping compliances and procurement of sports equipment.
What are the benefits of recognition as an NSF?
While the Code treats NSFs as autonomous bodies, government recognition is necessary for them to represent the country. Recognition is also necessary to obtain government funding and enjoy the various facilities/concessions that the government provides. NSFs officially represent the country in international sporting events or international fora and are authorized, through this recognition, to use the word “India” in its name. In addition to this, the government also provides funding to NSFs with recognition. Other financial concessions are also provided to NSFs in the form of customs duty exemptions, tax benefits and special dispensation to remit funds abroad.
How can a sports body apply for recognition as an NSF?
An application has to be made to the Department of Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of India in the form prescribed in the Code. Among other things, the application includes the process of selection of current office bearers, the duration of their term, activities of the body in the past three years, number of member bodies from states/UTs, details of national championships conducted in last three years, details of balance sheet and income and expenditure statements for last three years, details of the federation’s chartered accountant, and proof of affiliation to international bodies. Recognition cannot be claimed as a right and it is granted at the discretion of the government.
From 2010, the government has implemented an annual renewal system for recognition granted to NSFs. Recognition is automatically renewed if the NSF provides the necessary documents and demonstrate full compliance with the Code. In case of a lapse, the recognition of the NSF will be suspended.
What are the requirements for being recognized as an NSF?
While considering granting recognition as NSF to an organisation for the first time, the Ministry considers the following:
- The legal status of the organisation as a voluntary registered body, not being a proprietary concern or partnership firm. The organisation should exist and function for the sole purpose of the development of the relevant sport.
- Status as the apex body for the relevant sport in India and its role in promoting the sport in the country.
- Recognition by the relevant International Federation and Asian Federation.
- The organisation should have an exhaustive written Constitution.
- The organisation must have actively existed for more than three years on the date of application for recognition.
- At the time of applying for recognition, the organisation should have affiliated units in at least 2/3rd of total states/Union Territories of India. There are certain other requirements with respect to the state/UT units – only one from each state/Union Territory, each unit to have minimum of 50% of the district level associations affiliated to it and only truly representative bodies to be affiliated.
- Prominent sportspersons should be included as members of the organisation.
- The organisation is required to have an office in Delhi.
- The accounts should be maintained properly and audited annually by registered Chartered Accountants.
- Previous national championships conducted by the organisation.
- Fair, transparent and democratic elections.
- Compliance with age and tenure limit guidelines.
- Protection and promotion of players’ interests and welfare.
For organisations involved in sports/games that are not included in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games or Asian Games, there are certain additional conditions that apply.
What are the obligations imposed on NSFs once recognition has been granted?
So as to be eligible for financial assistance from the Government, the NSF will have to maintain its recognized status. In order to maintain recognition, NSFs will have to follow proper, democratic and healthy management practices which provide for greater accountability and transparency at all levels. The NSF will have to maintain membership/recognition of the relevant International Federation. NSFs receiving funding of Rs. 10 lakhs or more in a financial year have been declared as “Public Authorities” and as such, have to comply with the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005. The Code mandates that NSFs must include sportspersons in its management. The Code also requires the NSF to put in place proper accounting processes and transparent selection procedure, ensure compliance with international anti-doping protocols and take measures against age fraud.
The elections of the NSF will have to be conducted as per the model guidelines contained in the Code. Though these guidelines have been drafted in the format of model election bye-laws, the Delhi High Court has upheld it as binding on multiple occasions. The tenure and age limits for office bearers provided in the Code have to be adhered to. As per the Code, the President of the NSF can hold the office for a maximum period of 12 years with or without a break. The Secretary and Treasurer may serve two consecutive terms of four years each after which a minimum cooling-off period of four years will apply before fresh election can be sought. The President, Secretary and Treasurer will cease to hold that post on attaining the age of 70 years.
How can an NSF apply for funding from MYAS?
The Government follows a dynamic criteria for categorization of sports disciplines based on the performance in recognized international events such as Olympic, Asian and Commonwealth Games. As per this criteria, sports are categorized into “priority”, “general” and “others”. NSFs under priority and general category may avail financial assistance for coaching camps (form at Annexure IV), procuring equipment (form at Annexure V & XLII), participation in international competitions and training abroad (form at Annexure VI), appointment of coaches, organising national level championships (form at Annexure VII), holding international tournaments in India and cultural exchanges. NSFs in the “others” category can only seek assistance for holding national championships.
What are LTDPs?
NSFs are required to prepare LTDPs, on a four year cycle, as the government considers it an effective method by which NSFs can establish its goals and identify the best means of working towards them. Preparation of LTDPs is mandatory to avail of government funding. Detailed guidelines have been provided under the Code for the preparation of LTDPs. According to these guidelines the LTDP should contain the targets proposed to be achieved by the plan along with estimated costs. The key target areas may include athlete development, coaching, participation and broadbasing, development of clubs, domestic tournament schedule, participation in international tournaments, hosting of major events etc.
The LTDPs are finalised through a meeting between the NSF, the government and SAI. All three parties commit to achieving the targets set out in the LTDP. Every quarter, a committee with representation from all three parties monitors the progress of the plan as against the targets set.
What are the situations in which the recognition granted to an NSF can be suspended or withdrawn?
There are various grounds provided for suspension and withdrawal of recognition granted to NSFs. These grounds include suspension by the relevant international or Asian federation, suspension by the IOA, failure to submit audited accounts, misuse of Government assistance and failure to provide accurate information to the Government. The improper conduct of elections is another ground for suspension of recognition. The elections have to be held according to the Constitution of the NSF and the Government guidelines.
It is to be noted that upon withdrawal of recognition, the NSF will cease to exercise its functions as the governing body of the concerned sport. Upon withdrawal, the NSF will forego the right to regulate and control the sport in India and select national teams and represent India in international sports events and forums. The NSFs will also become ineligible to use “India” in its name or receive any benefit or concession meant for an NSF as per the Code.
What is the procedure for suspension and withdrawal of recognition?
If serious irregularities are detected in the functioning of NSFs on the basis of the above grounds, the recognition granted to the NSF can be suspended as an interim measure. The suspension is in place until a complete and full inquiry is completed. If this inquiry confirms the initial finding of serious irregularities, then the recognition is withdrawn. In certain cases, a withdrawal can take place without a preceding suspension. However, in all cases, before such withdrawal the NSF will be given a reasonable opportunity to present its defence.
Are there any specific regulations for new/developing sports and non-Olympic sports?
The Code places importance primarily on sports included in the Olympic, Asian and Commonwealth Games. However, the categorization of sports under the Code is dynamic and as such, is reviewed from time to time based on certain criteria. In 2009, the MYAS issued certain additional criteria for organisations seeking to attain recognition as an NSF in sports which are not included in the Olympic, Asian or Commonwealth Games. A sport which has been included as a demonstration sport in these major international sporting events has been given specific consideration under these criteria. This paves the way for recognition of NSFs in new and developing sporting disciplines such as esports. The E-sports Federation of India (ESFI) has not yet been recognized as an NSF even though e-sports was included as a demonstration event at the 2018 Asian Games. For an organisation seeking recognition as the national e-sports federation, the additional specific requirements that apply are that there should be sufficient infrastructure available, the sport should be affordable to conduct and that coaches should be available.
Authored by Vishakh Ranjit, Consultant with inputs from Anirudh Rastogi, Managing Partner at Ikigai Law.
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 All the provisions contained in the Code are not being covered in this article for the sake of brevity. The article will highlight the major provisions that might be of interest to sports governing bodies and other stakeholders.
 Upheld in W.P. (C) 2310/2012 before the High Court of Delhi but a Special Leave Petition is currently pending before the Supreme Court (SLP (CC) no. 2343/2015)
 Clause 6.1 (b) of the Code.
 W.P. (C) 9287/2019 before the Delhi High Court.
 Clause 5.1 of Annexure II of the Code.
 The list of documents to be provided has been provided as part of Annexure XV at pg. 80 of the Code.
 Annexure III of the Code.
 Clause 8.3 and Annexure II of the Code.
 Annexure XXXIX of the Code.
 Clause 9.1 of the Code.
 Annexure XVIII of the Code.
 Annexure-XXXVII of the Code.
 The election guidelines contained in the Code have been held to be binding on NSFs in various orders passed in W.P. (C) No. 195/2010 by the Delhi High Court. Reference can also be made to the judgment of the Delhi High Court in W.P.(C) 4601/2013 wherein deviations in the forms provided within the election guidelines were struck down. The judgment of the Supreme Court in Maharashtra Archery Association v. Rahul Mehra & Ors. (SLP(C) Diary No.29577/2017) can also be seen as an endorsement of these guidelines.
 Annexure XI and XIII of the Code.
 Annexure XXXVIII of the Code.
 Annexure X of the Code.
 Annexure III of the Code.
 Annexure III of the Code.
 Annexure XXXVIII of the Code
 Annexure XXXVIX of the Code
 Annexure XXXVIX of the Code