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The usurpers of professional cricket

  By Vijay Darda | 10-10-2016

Do the elected office-bearers of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) think that this institution is their landed property and they have the ownership rights over all its assets and sources of revenue? Sitting on the cash-rich body, these people have got so much enamored of the wealth, power and prestige that they have not only challenged the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha committee but have the temerity to challenge the Supreme Court itself.

It is a simple and basic expectation that the democratically constituted institutions should be run by the same democratic norms and principles whereby the country is run. But the board officials are behaving in an autocratic manner believing what they ‘lay down is the law’. Their arrogance was further strengthened with an almost unstoppable stream of money they got by organizing the IPL matches, but in reality this is the most mismanaged body from whose cupboards the skeletons of match-fixing and financial irregularities tumbled out in quick succession. Actually this board was constituted for the promotion of cricket, but that purpose has been relegated to the background and a clique of power brokers and vested interests have turned this institution into their personal fiefdom. It should be noted that the Supreme Court intervened in the affairs of the BCCI only when it found flagrant violations of the democratic institution. 

The Supreme Court appointed a committee headed by the former chief justice of India Rajendramal Lodha with the noble purpose of ensuring the management of the board in a democratic manner, and to ensure that no monopoly is created and that the priority is given to the sportsmen and to suggest ways and means of setting the BCCI house in order. The committee presented its report to the Supreme Court after interacting and holding several rounds of discussion with the institutions and individuals concerned with cricket and its management. The SC accepted most of the recommendations of the Justice Lodha committee except those like bringing the BCCI under the Right to Information Act and legalising betting which require sanction of the Constitution and the Parliament. Justice Lodha was also entrusted with the task of improving the functioning of the BCCI within a certain time frame.

Ever since the report of the Justice Lodha committee was announced, the BCCI has taken an aggressive stance vis-a-vis the recommendations. The board is opposed to the recommendations like maximum age limit for becoming the office-bearer, prohibiting ministers and bureaucrats, capping the working term for nine years only, three years’ rest after working consecutively for six years, one man one post, appointment of a representative of CAG on the board, formation of the sportsmen’s organisation within the board and every state to have just one vote. Though the Supreme Court set a deadline for implementing the recommendations of Justice Lodha committee within six months, the board is still not ready to do it and is raising various issues. With a view to prevaricating on the issue, the BCCI formed a four-member committee, headed by the former judge of Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju, to discuss the Lodha committee recommendations. Justice Katju raised pointless issues like he being senior to Justice Lodha and questioned Justice Lodha’s bonafides to deal with board affairs, making his intentions clear.

But the presiding chief justice Tirathsingh Thakur was insistent that all the recommendations of the committee should be implemented first otherwise the Supreme Court would decide what order to pass. Besides, the SC stated that unless state cricket organisations, which are the constituents of the BCCI passed the resolutions accepting the recommendations of the justice Lodha committee, they should not be provided any funds. But still the board did not make any move. They offered a technical excuse like the board being constituted under the Tamil Nadu law and that according to that law there can not be amendment of the constitution unless two third members vote for it. After the deadline expired on September 30, the SC bench sought from the BCCI a written assurance to implement all the recommendations of the Justice Lodha committee within a certain time frame but the board refused to give that too.

Meanwhile, the season of domestic cricket (Ranji Trophy etc.) started and the amicus curie Gopal Subramaniam said that the BCCI’s act of ignoring the SC order amounted to contempt of court and suggested to the SC bench that the governing body of the BCCI should be dissolved immediately and that an administrator should be appointed on the board.

But Justice Thakur has not accepted this because he wants to give some more time to the board (till October 17). The picture that emerges out of such a situation is that while the court has taken a very sensible view, the board officials continue with their arrogant and contemptuous ways. They are not ready to think beyond their narrow personal interests. The board is pretending that it is the sports body working hard for the promotion of sports and creation of sports friendly atmosphere. But this claim is hollow.

Basically, this board is interested in making money. Even the sportspersons who claim that they are playing for the country, play only for money, their clubs, commit violation of the FEMA and FERA. The board also avails itself of several government concessions. Therefore, I feel that the Supreme Court should have accepted the recommendation of Justice Lodha for bringing the BCCI under the RTI. Most of the politicians have thronged the cricket bodies and the effort to disentangle these sports bodies from their embrace should be strengthened. 

Before I conclude…

The BCCI’s claim that the rule of ‘one state one vote’ is an injustice to Maharashtra and Gujarat while inducting the office-bearers from these two states is worth taking note. There are three cricket associations viz. Mumbai, Maharashtra and Nagpur which are active in Maharashtra and their contribution is really great.


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The usurpers of professional cricket


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