Indian athletes petition for governance reforms whilst disputes ignite around Pro Wrestling League's & Jallikattu
Pro Wrestling League promoters face legal notice
On 13 January 2017, Core Networks, a ground events company for India’s Pro Wrestling League’s (PWL) issued a legal notice against PWL’s promoters, Pro-Sportify. In the notice, Core Networks claim that Pro Sportify owe them over Rs 1.5 crores (175,508 GBP) for work they conducted during the inaugural season of PWL in 2015. The legal notice was issued under Section 271 of the Companies Act 2013.
Pro-Sportify’s director, Vishal Gurnani,responded to the notice stating that Rs. 2 crore has already been paid to Core Networks, and Sportify are willing to pay the rest if Core Networks can prove that the services they claim to have rendered were actually provided. The unpaid amount is currently “under commercial dispute”.
Pro-Sportify further explained that they had been in constant contact with Core Networks about the remaining amount and related discrepancies ahead of the formal legal notice; although Core Networks claim that they had been trying to contact Pro-Sportify “unsuccessfully since January 2016".
If the debt remains unpaid after 21 days following the legal notice, Core Networks may pursue “winding up proceedings” under Part 1a of Section 271 of the Companies Act 2013, which notes that “A company may, on a petition under section 272, be wound up by the Tribunal if the company is unable to pay its debts,” and Part 2a of Section 271, which states:
(2) A company shall be deemed to be unable to pay its debts,—
- if a creditor, by assignment or otherwise, to whom the company is indebted for an amount exceeding one lakh rupees then due, has served on the company, by causing it to be delivered at its registered office, by registered post or otherwise, a demand requiring the company to pay the amount so due and the company has failed to pay the sum within twenty-one days after the receipt of such demand or to provide adequate security or re-structure or compound the debt to the reasonable satisfaction of the creditor:
We wait to see how Pro-Sportify will respond.
Reforming India’s sports federations
On 23 January 2017, the Supreme Court of India issued a public interest litigation notice to the Union of India, Sports Authority of India, and Indian Olympic Association (the Respondents) “for extending Lodha Committee reforms to all sports federations.”
The PIL is filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, which addresses the Supreme Court’s power to issue orders and writs. With this, the petitioners were hoping for a writ of mandamus to be issued against the Respondents, which would then require the Lodha Committee reforms to be applied to sports federations.
The 28 petitioners of the PIL are comprised of many Arjuna awardees, Dhrona wardees, as well as Olympians. The petitioners are suggesting the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011 be amended incorporate the select recommendations of the Lodha Panel to ensure transparency and encourage good governance.
The PIL was filed through Advocate Amit A Pai, on grounds citing multiple instances of corruption and sexual harrassments as well as gender discrimination in the national sports federations.
To further the argument that the Lodha reforms should be extended from the BCCI to all sports federations, the PIL specifically highlights that:
- in Board of Control of Cricket in India vs. Cricket Association of Bihar (2015) 3 SCC 289 the Supreme Court recognized “the role of the Government in formulating guidelines pertaining to regulation sports bodies in the larger public interest.”
- based on the recommendation of the the Supreme Court Committee on Cricket Reforms in BCCI v CAB, the “lack of supervisory framework of the National Sports Federations” affects the fundamental rights of sports persons under Article 14, 21 and 19(1)g of the Constitution of India.
- Citing Dev Dutt vs. Union of India notes that the Supreme Court held that “transparency and good governance are new components of natural justice” and therein under the purview of fundamental rights under Article 14 of the Constitution and “rule of law.” 
For further reference:
A link to the full PIL can be found here.
The debate surrounding India’s “bull taming sport”
Jallikattu, India’s “bull taming sport” tends to be predominantly seen in the state of Tamil Nadu. Jallikattu involves coins tied to the bulls horns which, if the bull is tamed, can be considered a prize; the prizes vary in different parts of the state. For a quick look at the rules of Jallikattu as noted by the Mumbai Mirror, see here.
On 31 January 2017, the Supreme Court of India refused to stay Tamil Nadu’s new law, which permits Jallikattu. The Supreme Court has now given Tamil Nadu six weeks to reply regarding the “validity of the new state law.”
However fundamental to the culture of Tamil Nadu, this “sport” continues to raise significant athlete welfare and animal rights concerns.
The Attorney General of India’s views on Jallikattu
The Attorney General of India, Mukul Rohatgi, further analysed the jurisdictional issues concerning Jallikattu in an interview with Times Now. Rohatgi explained the concerns as follows:
- The matter of animal cruelty is determined by the central law of the land. In cases where there is legislation on animal cruelty in the state, then the central law prevails.
- The issue of whether the actual sport of Jallikattu can be played is determined by state law. In India, sports exclusively fall within the purview of its state and its relevant law, according to Article 1.1 of the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011.
How the Constitution of India applies to this debate
1. In support of the PETA, AWBI, and animal rights arguments, Article 51A(g) of the Indian Constitution states that it is the duty of every citizen of India “…to have compassion for living creatures.”
2. In support of the protestors for Jallikattu, Article 51A (f) highlights the duty to “to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.” Wherein, if banning Jallikattu compromises one state’s fundamental culture and therein affecting the composite culture of the country, then it raises concerns under this article.
Further to Article 51A, if the sport of Jallikattu is fundamental to the state of Tamil Nadu, then it will also be protected under Article 29(1) of the Constitution of India, which addresses the right to protect culture in any part of India.
For more in depth analysis of the Jallikattu debate, we will be publishing an article written by Aahna Mehrotra, Head, Sports and Gaming Laws at TMT Law Practice shortly, which analyses this ongoing debate.
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About the Author
Manali is the COO at LawInSport and executive contributor of the editorial board for LawInSport. She holds an LLM in Sports Law from Nottingham Law School (Nottingham Trent University).