New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday held that BCCI was discharging public functions and it cannot be said that the Board was not answerable on the standards generally applicable to judicial review as it was amenable to writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution.
A bench headed by Justice T S Thakur said though BCCI may not be “State” under Article 12 of the Constitution but is certainly amenable to writ jurisdiction. “The functions of the Board are clearly public functions, which, till such time the State intervenes to takeover the same, remain in the nature of public functions, no matter discharged by a society registered under the Registration of Societies Act,” the court said.
It said “if the government not only allows an autonomous /private body to discharge functions which it could in law takeover or regulate but even lends its assistance to such a non-government body to undertake such functions which by their very nature are public functions, it cannot be said that the functions are not public functions or that the entity discharging the same is not answerable on standards generally applicable to judicial review of State action”.
The court in its 138-page judgement posed seven questions for its determination, of which the first one was whether the BCCI is ‘State' within the meaning of Article 12 and if it is not, whether it is amenable to the writ jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. “Our answer to question No.1, therefore, is in the negative, qua, the first part and affirmative qua the second.
BCCI may not be State under Article 12 of the Constitution but is certainly amenable to writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India,” the bench also comprising Justice FMI Kalifulla said.
The court said it recognised that the Board was discharging some duties like selection of Indian Cricket Team, controlling the activities of the players which were akin to public duties or State functions so that if there was any breach of a constitutional or statutory obligation or the rights of other citizens, the aggrieved party shall be entitled to seek redress under the ordinary law or by way of a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution which is much wider than Article 32.
The court said the rationale underlying that view lies in the “nature of duties and functions” which the BCCI performs. “It is common ground that the respondent-Board has a complete sway over the game of cricket in this country. It regulates and controls the game to the exclusion of all others. It formulates rules, regulations norms and standards covering all aspect of the game. It enjoys the power of choosing the members of the national team and the umpires. “It exercises the power of disqualifying players which may at times put an end to the sporting career of a person. It spends crores of rupees on building and maintaining infrastructure.
“All these activities are undertaken with the tacit concurrence of the State Government and the Government of India who are not only fully aware but supportive of the activities of the Board,” the court said. It added that the State has not chosen to bring any law or taken any other step that would either deprive or dilute the Board's monopoly in the field of cricket. On the contrary, the Government of India has allowed the Board to select the national team.
“Those distinguishing themselves in the international arena are conferred highest civilian awards like the Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri, apart from sporting awards instituted by the Government... “Any organization or entity that has such pervasive control over the game and its affairs and such powers as can make dreams end up in smoke or come true cannot be said to be undertaking any private activity,” the court said.