NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's government is considering a rule change to allow cricket star Sachin Tendulkar to receive the country's highest civilian award -- for which sports stars are currently ineligible.
"A suggestion regarding modification in the existing eligibility norms has been received and is under consideration," junior home minister Mullappally Ramachandran told the upper house of parliament on Wednesday.
There have been growing calls in recent years to confer the "Bharat Ratna" (Jewel of India) award on the record-breaking Tendulkar, the world's most successful Test and one-day batsman.
The criteria for recipients, formulated in 1955, limits the award to "exceptional services in arts, literature and science, and in recognition of public services of the highest order."
Sports Minister Ajay Maken wrote to the home ministry last month suggesting an amendment that would make sportspeople such as Tendulkar eligible.
There have been 41 recipients of the Bharat Ratna, including two foreigners: Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, the Afghan who fought for India's independence from British rule in 1947, and Nelson Mandela of South Africa.
Tendulkar, 38, holds the world record for most runs (14,810 in Tests and 18,111 in one-dayers) and most centuries (51 in Tests and 48 in one-dayers).
He is currently playing a Test series in England, needing one more three-figure innings to become the first batsman in history to score 100 international centuries.