Associates, In-House Counsels & Advocates

“The realm of sports law encompasses a spectrum of legal facets, including trademarks, sex discrimination, tax issues, criminal matters, player selection, employment issues, marketing strategies, doping disputes, and various other aspects relating to sports governance and athletes’ rights”- Prof Dr Amaresh Kumar, Advocate Supreme Court of India and Sports Lawyer & Arbitrator

This Interview has been published by Pragya Chandni and The SuperLawyer Team

Sir, could you please share with us the journey that led you to pursue a career in law, particularly focusing on your transition from academia and Sports Management to becoming an Advocate in the Supreme Court of India ?

My journey toward a career in law, particularly my transition from academia and sports management to becoming an advocate in the Supreme Court of India, is rooted in a pursuit of justice and a refusal to succumb to bureaucratic injustices. The pivotal force behind this shift was my late wife, Smt. Mrinal Amaresh. She began her career as an Advocate in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, Gwalior, and eventually became a leading female advocate in Gwalior. She encouraged me to challenge the discriminatory practices I faced in academia.

Having completed my Masters at the Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education (LNIPE), Gwalior, I joined as a Research Assistant in 1984. Despite sincere dedication, I faced neglect in promotions due to the lack of political connections. Frustrated by the injustice, my wife suggested pursuing a law course to challenge the system. We sought advice from legal stalwarts, including Shri R.C. Lahoty and Shri Arun Mishra, who advised me to focus on the principle of “equal pay for equal work.

In 1988, Shri Arun Mishra filed a writ petition on my behalf, challenging the unjust selection process. The High Court of Madhya Pradesh, in 1990, ruled in my favor, directing my appointment as a Lecturer from December 1, 1987. However, the government, instead of complying, terminated my services, leading to further legal battles. Shri R.K. Jain defended me in the Supreme Court, where the SLP filed by the authorities was eventually dismissed.

In 1998, the Central Administrative Tribunal directed LNIPE and Sports Authority of India to consider my appointment as a Lecturer without open competition. Despite this, the authorities attempted to evade the order, leading to contempt petitions. Shri R.K. Jain’s guidance was crucial during these legal battles, culminating in my reinstatement in July 1999 with all consequential benefits.

Following my reinstatement, I assumed dual responsibilities at LNIPE, showcasing my proficiency in both sports sciences and law. The then Cabinet Minister, Sadhvi Uma Bharti, entrusted me with the task of reviewing and negotiating settlement for numerous cases against LNIPE. I successfully settled over 91 cases out of court, demonstrating the effectiveness of alternative dispute resolution.

Throughout this journey, my mentors, including my late wife, Shri Arun Kumar Mishra, and Shri R.K. Jain played pivotal roles in guiding and motivating me. Their mentorship and support were instrumental in shaping my career trajectory from academia and sports management to advocacy in the Supreme Court of India.

You’ve had a diverse range of experiences, from serving as an academician in Sports Management to practicing law. How have these different roles influenced your approach to legal consultancy, especially in the realms of Sports Law and Academic Institutions?

Over the course of my career, I have had the privilege of engaging in a diverse array of roles, ranging from academia in Sports Management to actively practicing law. This multifaceted journey has significantly shaped my approach to legal consultancy, particularly within the dynamic intersections of Sports Law and Academic Institutions.

As a sports enthusiast and a legal scholar, my passion for researching sports laws has been a driving force, especially in my capacity to handle legal matters for various institutes, sports players, and governing authorities. Initially, my understanding of sports law was limited to the regulations directly influencing the gameplay. However, a pivotal moment in my exploration was the realization, through interaction with experts such as those at the International Sports Law Centers of the TMC Asser International Law Institute in The Hague, that sports laws extend far beyond mere rules of play.

I attended the 2nd Workshop of the Court of Arbitration for Sports organised jointly by FIFA and the Swiss Bar Association in Lausanne, Switzerland. There, I found two hundred and ten Sports Lawyers from around the world. They all were either players or Olympians turned to Sports Lawyers. Similarly, while attending the 16th World Congress of Sports Law at Seoul, South Korea, there were 25 Chinese Sports Lawyers in attendance. To my surprise, all of them were former sports players and Sports Teachers in Colleges, Universities and Schools and then turned to Sports Law. With Physical Education and Sports qualifications for high level Sports Participation, like Olympic or International Sports, you can experience the requirement of Sports Persons and Sports disputes.

Broadly speaking, the realm of sports law encompasses a spectrum of legal facets, including trademarks, sex discrimination, tax issues, criminal matters, player selection, employment issues, marketing strategies, doping disputes, and various other aspects relating to sports governance and athletes’ rights. The breadth of topics spans contracts related to sports events, player associations, and clubs, intellectual property rights, broadcasting rights, tort laws, and the expeditious resolution of sports disputes—a critical consideration given the relatively short peak performance span of players and athletes.

In the context of India, where I have primarily operated, it’s noteworthy that most sports-related disputes find their way to traditional courts, resulting in prolonged resolution times. This protracted legal process can inadvertently diminish the essence and spirit of sports, a concern that underscores the importance of seeking quicker and more efficient methods of dispute resolution within the realm of sports law.

Could you tell us about a significant case or project you’ve worked on that stands out to you the most in your career, whether it’s in the field of Constitutional law, Sports Disputes, or Educational Consultancy ?

Undoubtedly, the Madhya Pradesh Triathlon Association case marked a watershed moment in my legal career, showcasing my proficiency in navigating complex legal landscapes. The Supreme Court’s directive, emphasizing structured dispute resolution mechanisms within sports federations, not only underscored my involvement in high-stakes cases but also highlighted my commitment to upholding the integrity of sports governance.

Similarly, my contribution to the intervention application in the matter involving Kalyan Chaubey showcased my dedication to ensuring fair play and transparency in sporting organizations. By advocating for the lifting of the stay on the All India Football Federation’s elections, the court’s decision set a precedent for restoring democratic processes within sports bodies after an extended hiatus.

In the realm of legal innovation, I played a key role in shaping the Code for Sports Arbitration for the Indian Olympic Association in 2012. Responding to a call from Dr. Randhir Singh, the Secretary-General at the time, this initiative demonstrated my forward-thinking approach to address challenges within the National Olympic Movement. The subsequent adoption of the code in 2018 reflected not only legal acumen but also a commitment to international standards of sports governance.

These experiences collectively underscore my versatility and effectiveness in handling diverse legal challenges within the dynamic field of sports law.

These are just a fraction of the broader spectrum of legal complexities I’ve encountered and successfully managed in the field of sports law and constitutional matters. My diverse portfolio includes cases for Universities, student unions and teachers handling a myriad of cases, each presenting unique nuances and demanding a tailored legal approach. This breadth of experience has not only honed my legal skills but has also equipped me with a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies inherent in sports-related disputes.

Your involvement with various International Sports Law Organizations and Institutions is quite impressive. How have these Global Experiences shaped your perspective on Sports Law, especially in the context of Indian Regulations and Practices ?

Absolutely, my engagement with various International Sports Law Organizations has been a transformative journey that significantly impacted my understanding of Sports Law, particularly in the context of Indian regulations and practices. One pivotal opportunity arose in 2010 when Dr. Randhir Singh, the Secretary of the Indian Olympic Association, entrusted me to represent the association at the 2nd Workshop on “CAS Jurisprudence and New Developments in International Sports Law” organized by the Court of Arbitration (CAS) and the Swiss Bar Association in collaboration with FIFA in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Attending this workshop was an eye-opener as I interacted with 223 advocates, including eminent sports personalities and graduates in Sports Sciences or Physical Education from Member National Olympic Committees. Exploring the library of the International Olympic Committee, I discovered that the Statutes of the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) were ratified by the International Olympic Committee in India in 1983. 

As a legal advisor to numerous Educational Institutions and Sports Organizations, what are some common challenges you’ve encountered, and how do you navigate them effectively ?

Challenges and negativity serve as the roadmap to success in life. We must transform these challenges and negative experiences into opportunities. As the challenges during the coronavirus pandemic have taught the human beings a lot. Due to the challenges faced during the coronavirus pandemic, the judiciary has developed a new mode of filing cases, arguing the matters, and judgments being uploaded online meaning thereby there has been a complete digitization of the Judiciary. I was persuaded for a long time when I had an opportunity to visit the International Court of Justice at the Hague in the year 2010. But this has now become practical after 2020. 

Similarly, the challenges and negativity in my life, both as an individual and as the legal advisor of numerous educational institutions, have been encountered and effectively shaped. Especially noteworthy is the constant advocacy for the cause of the national language Hindi in my alma mater by way of Legal Activist through a PIL before the Madhya Pradesh High Court referred to as, “AIR 1997 MP:43 Dr. Amaresh Kumar Vs. Lakshmibai National College of Physical Education” now is being advocated by the Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi and Chief Justice of India Shri D.Y. Chandrachud in their Speeches and Practice in various High Courts and Supreme Court of India. Whereas, on 29th October, 2018, I was invited to present my advice and suggestions related to, “Strengthening the Justice Delivery Process before the Department Related Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice” headed by Shri Bhupendra Yadav, M.P. Rajya Sabha comprised of 31 Members of Parliament of both the houses, where I have suggested followings :

(i). I suggested that all hearings should be video recorded, a practice that has been initiated due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India is now giving more weightage to the digitization of the court. 

(ii). I suggested the selection and promotion of Judges after the Training of Judges/Judicial Officers – which has been started for the Judges as well as for the Advocates

(iii). The language of courts shall be allowed to file, plead, and argue in their National Language Hindi. – This has been supported by the Prime Minister of Bharat, Shri Narendra Modi during the Conferences of the Chief Justices of the High Courts and Chief Ministers of the States and also during the Dimond Jubilee celebration of the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice Hon’ble Mr. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud has also bated the need to teach Law in Hindi. Speaking at Prayagraj, UP, after inaugurating the maiden academic session of Dr Rajendra Prasad National Law University (RPNLU), Prayagraj, UP, the CJI said, “I appeal to the authorities of the National Law University here at Prayagraj to ensure that the medium of instruction takes place in Hindi, so that the best students from Uttar Pradesh will become the best lawyers that will practice in the high court. I am therefore of firm belief that as in other countries like Russia, Germany and France etc. language of the Courts is of their National Language. In the Amrit Kal of the Swatantra Bharat the Language of the Indian Courts and especially the Supreme Court will be of our National Language. Because nowadays translator machines can be used by Judges who do not understand Hindi in their regional languages. 

(iv). I suggested that there are no relevancies of the so many Tribunals in the Judiciary systems without there being the Judicial Members. – The Supreme Court of India comprising of the Hon’ble Mr. Justice Surya Kant, Hon’ble Mr. Justice Dipankar Datta and Hon’ble Mr. Justice K.V.Viswathan had advocated for the presence of Judiciary Members in the Tribunals and the Government is also trying to cut short the numbers of the Tribunals. 

(v). I also suggested the development of ICT support for filing of Petition/Plaint, Summon or issue of Notices to other Parties, Recording of Evidence and Arguments during the Arguments for easy and quick access to the Justice System by the Clients. – The Government and the Chief Justice of India are also of the same view now. 

(vi). Strengthening Legal AID system and Promoting Alternate Dispute Redressal Mechanism – The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, the Judges of the various High Courts of India are nowadays putting more stress on the ADR System. Even the Government of India has enacted the Mediation Act, 2023, for advocating the ADR for the Resolution of Disputes. The same will also be encouraged by the AMAMRI Lawyers LL.P. for evolving the ADR in the Resolution of the Sports Related Disputes in Bharat. Which can be availed by Athletes, Sports Persons, Sports Organizations, National Sports Federations, State Olympic Associations, Indian Olympic Association and Sports Business Organizations. 

You’ve authored several books and publications on Sports Law and related subjects. Could you highlight some key insights or principles that you believe are crucial for understanding the intersection of the law of Sports ?

Throughout the process of crafting authoritative works on Sports Law and related subjects, my overarching goal was to disseminate a profound understanding of the multifaceted legal landscape to a diverse spectrum of stakeholders. This includes athletes, sports entities, such as sports organizations, national sports federations, state Olympic associations, the Indian Olympic Association, and businesses operating within the sports industry. These publications intricately explore a myriad of legal dimensions governing sports within the Indian context, providing a comprehensive overview encompassing the management and organization of sporting events.

One of the primary focuses has been to enlighten athletes and sports organizations about the inherent challenges posed by doping and to instill a vigilant approach against the use of prohibited substances. The works also serve a crucial role in educating individuals on the intricacies of contesting doping charges, particularly those initiated by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA). It is noteworthy that these publications address the perceived gaps in NADA’s efforts to adequately inform Indian athletes about the potential legal ramifications associated with doping charges.

In essence, the books aim to act as a beacon of knowledge, empowering individuals within the sports community to navigate the complex legal landscape effectively. By offering comprehensive insights into the legal intricacies of sports, these publications stand as valuable resources for those seeking a nuanced understanding of the legal dimensions governing the dynamic and evolving field of sports law.

Throughout your extensive career, you’ve actively engaged in social-legal activism, championing causes like advocating for the use of Hindi in examinations and promoting the establishment of Sports Dispute Arbitration Tribunals. How do you manage to strike a balance between your professional legal work and these broader societal initiatives?

I perceive myself more as a nationalist than merely a professional advocate. I’ve always believed in the importance of contributing to broader societal issues alongside my professional legal work. Advocating for the use of Hindi in examinations and promoting the establishment of Sports Dispute Arbitration Tribunals are causes that align with my values and passion for social-legal activism.

To strike a balance between my professional legal work and these societal initiatives, I prioritize effective time management and organizational skills. I allocate specific time slots in my schedule dedicated to these causes, ensuring that my professional commitments are not compromised. Having an organization AMAMRI LAWYERS with like-minded peoples helps me to pursue my desires of social activism allowing for a more efficient and impactful approach.

Furthermore, I integrate aspects of social-legal activism into my professional work wherever possible. This synergy not only allows me to address societal issues but also enhances the relevance and effectiveness of my legal contributions.

In summary, balancing professional legal work and social-legal activism requires meticulous planning, collaboration, and a strategic integration of these two aspects to create a harmonious and impactful approach.

As someone who has transitioned between Academia, legal practice and Advocacy, What advice would you offer to law graduates who are just starting their careers, particularly those interested in specializing in Sports Law or pursuing similar interdisciplinary paths?  

The young advocates aspiring to specialize in Sports Law are embarking on a promising journey within the legal field. Throughout human history, sports have been an integral part of our lives, evolving from personal entertainment to a global industry valued at over $486.61 billion USD in 2022. Projections indicate further growth, with expectations reaching $512.14 billion USD by the end of 2023 and $623.63 billion USD by 2027. The sports industry, one of the largest revenue-generating sectors globally, is poised for even more rapid expansion, fueled by the Internet and other media forms. In India, the sports industry witnessed a remarkable 49% growth in 2022, totaling Rs 14,209 crore, with sponsorships increasing by an impressive 105% to reach Rs 5,907 crore, according to the Financial Express Report. With the industry’s pervasive global presence and worth billions of dollars, it naturally gives rise to disputes, leading to the establishment and evolution of sports law as an independent discipline. My advice to law graduates is to embrace this dynamic field, recognizing the immense opportunities it presents and positioning themselves strategically to contribute effectively to the resolution of legal challenges in the ever-expanding realm of Sports Law.

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