Public Interest Litigation in Sports

More than one billion population in India celebrated the achievement of a single gold medal in the recent Olympics. 48th rank was the best of our success in four decades. As a recent PIL in the Supreme court quoted, China and India is ranked 1 and 2 respectively on the population front. The two countries together constitute about 37% of humanity on the planet. When it comes to performance in sporting events though, India is nowhere close to China. When compared to countries like Grenada and Jamaica, which won a medal for every couple of hundred thousand people, India’s performance is abysmal. Could India do better in sports? Can India give the deserving facilities and respect to our sports players? The Answer is a huge “Yes”. There are many things to be done and many ways to promoting in sports in India. One available tool is Public Interest Litigation.

The term Public Interest Litigation (PIL) rings bells of the most celebrated cases in Indian Legal history. Oleum gas leak case, preservation of Taj Mahal case, and many others have contributed significantly to progress in law and society. PIL is empowering for any citizen acting in good faith to represent the interests of the community. PIL has been defined by the courts as “a legal action started in a court of law for the enforcement of public/general interest where the public or a particular class of the public some interest (including pecuniary interest) that affects their legal rights or liabilities.”[1] The marriage of PIL and sports in India is an interesting one. In the past, PILs have been used to point out the irregularities and for enhancing the sports facilities.

Positive Outcomes through PILs

Enhancement of sporting facilitates and promotion of sports come under the broader function and responsibility of government as a part of taking care of the Health and welfare of citizens. However, a lot of times resources allocated for sports are not appropriated for the same. This was pointed in the case of Krishnan lal Gera, where 99 acres of land was lent by the government for 1 rupee so that such land could be used for sports. However, it was misused for commercial activities. Through a PIL, the citizens had secured justice against such irregularities. The Supreme court even highlighted the importance of Sports and human resource development.[2]

Another landmark achievement through PILs has been to save the reputation at the international level. In 2012, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was expelled from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for electing the leader of pending criminal charges. This forced Indian athletes to participate in the Sochi Winter under the IOC flag instead of the Indian flag Olympic Games. Thankfully, in 2016 when similar illegality in elections of the Indian Football Federation (AIFF) chairman occurred again, the defender and famous sports activist Rahul Mehra (Rahul Mehra) filed a public interest lawsuit (PIL). Ultimately this led to the Delhi High Court ruling such election illegal. This PIL not only removed roadblocks in any future international representation but also ensured accountability.

The most recent (August 2021PIL that has evoked discussion is Vishal Tiwari v. Union of India[3], the PIL rightly questioned the distribution and allocation of funds. The PIL sought for the Hon’ble Supreme court to issue a writ of mandamus/directions or any other Appropriate Writ/Directions to the Respondents immediately enforce and initiate guidelines and directions for the upliftment of the sports industry/Athletics Games of Olympics by providing due funds, facilities and infrastructures, for initiating public accountability of the funds allocated for this industry and perform greater promotional activities with due broadcasting of such sports and for recognizing the game of Hockey as the National game of India. The outcome of this judgment is yet to come, but if the prayers are granted it is bound to boost the sporting facilities.

Impediment and Conclusion

The tool of PIL is only effective against a public body. However, most of the sporting bodies continue to be private. In fact, it has been a continuous debate on permitting sports to be controlled by private bodies. However, these private bodies are interfering in the social and economic welfare of citizens, therefore as per the Binny Ltd. v. V. Sadasivan[4], they should be held accountable. PILs have always been used for positive change, with the increasing awareness, hopefully, more irregularities in the functioning of sporting authorities are addressed and a nurturing environment comes out for the players.

About Revathi Thushara Tapila 2 Articles
Revathi Thushara Tapila is a penultimate year law student at National Law University Odisha. Being a student of Law, Science, and Music she has a strong inclination towards Intellectual Property law. Her unique way of writing can turn intricate topics into enjoyable readings. Not only is her style of writing unique but also her approach to unexplored facets in Intellectual Property law.

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