Shimla: In a matter pertaining to Age Verification Programme, for the Under-19 age group, Himachal Pradesh High Court on Thursday has directed the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to devise a mechanism by which the alleged menace of production of forged date of birth certificates by players can be stopped, which practice according to the petitioner, is rampant for quite some time.

The Court has further directed BCCI to take such a decision within six months.

The orders were passed by a Division Bench of Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua on a writ petition filed by the petitioner Suresh Kumar in the year 2019, (minor at that time), through his father-Dole Ram.

The petitioner had challenged the communication dated July 22, 2015, and also the BCCI Age Verification Programme 2015-16, whereby eligibility for the Under-19 age group for the purpose of age determination has been kept as per the Government-issued birth certificates as primary evidence and ancillary evidence, such as school and hospital records.

The petitioner had prayed to direct the respondents to revert to the BCCI protocol being followed before issuance of aforesaid impugned communication, whereby in the case of a player, who has already participated in the Under-16 tournament on the basis of TW3 bone test, his age calculated as per the TW3 bone age test, may be considered to be the basis for determining his age and the age so determined may be carried forward by adding one year per season for Under-19 and Under-23 age-group cricket tournaments, respectively.

Further, the petitioner had prayed that the respondents may be directed to fix the cut-off date of eligibility for playing Under-16, Under-19 and Under-23 as April 1 instead of September 1 of every year, as the advertisement, which is issued in March/April, makes the players born from April 1 to August 31 ineligible for playing under the age group category tournament and only the players born from September 1 to March 31 are only eligible.

This arbitrary fixation of the cut-off date, according to the petitioner, has shortened his eligibility period to seven months only instead of twelve months.

The petitioner had made very serious allegations alleging that the method adopted by the respondents for determination of age and fixation of the cut-off date is breeding corruption and is giving rise to forging date of birth certificates in a big way. This situation has also been taken note of and acknowledged by many international players.

The Counsel appearing for respondent BCCI submitted that the petitioner should approach BCCI, as the method of determination of age as also as the cut-off date and the decision, which the BCCI would take, would have PAN India ramifications.

The Court directed the BCCI to treat the writ petition along with its enclosures as a representation of the petitioner, to examine the issues, some of which are really important and pertinent.

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Navneet Rathore is a Shimla based journalist having two-years of experience in the field of journalism. Navneet is a post-graduate in Journalism and Mass Communications from Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla and is specialised in crime, education, health, environment, agriculture and Horticulture beats.