Sports fraud bill must come into play

Last week, Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal promised a push for the Sports Fraud Bill in the ongoing monsoon session in Parliament no better news for those who want sports to be corruption-free.

The Cabinet’s approval to amendments to Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, came in April this year, almost two years after the world’s richest cricket league got mired in spot fixing and illegal betting. And it’s been five years that the Commonwealth Games in the Indian Capital made more news for financial irregularities than medals won by our athletes.

Tracking and classifying corruption in sports in India is tough, a different ball game. Once, only cricket drew advertisers and sponsors. Now, slowly, yet steadily, money is seeping into soccer, badminton, hockey, tennis and even earthy kabaddi.

Secondly, corruption in Indian sports revolved mostly around undue promotion into the team; both player and officials make the cut-off list because of hidden pulls and pressures. The central theme was ‘no bribe taken, no bribe accepted’. Bribes worked only when big contracts were handed out for mega events that India hosted once in a few years.

Now that an Act is in place, it would fill the perceived gaps in the existing law, the measures including penal provisions enhanced to a seven-year prison term that is standard for those charged under the heinous crime

The Justice Mudgal Committee and Justice Lodha Committee will hopefully keep the punters away from cricket, but there are high chances that they could focus on other leagues India has started with loads of fanfare, prefixing everything with the word ‘Premier’.

There are indications that illegal betting is a billion-dollar market in India and that many are playing high stakes. The Act is a boon, an ideal instrument to end India’s long season of sporting scandals, rampant
cronyism, poor governance, and lack of accountability.

If this spring-cleaning happens, Indian sports can provide a model of how to curb corruption rather than being a source of it.

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