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Drastic recommendations

Attempts by the Supreme Court to cure Indian cricket of corruption and nepotism have faced severe resistance. On Wednesday, the apex court-appointed Lodha committee submitted a report in court, accusing the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) of flouting the panel’s recommendations on bringing changes in its governance. According to the Press Trust of India, the Lodha committee has sought the ouster of BCCI President Anurag Thakur and Secretary Ajay Sirke. This is quite a drastic recommendation, all things considered.  The committee has argued that the BCCI violated the court’s directives on the number of selectors, meetings and preparation of a roadmap for implementation of its recommendations. Its decision to raise these complaints comes after the BCCI appointed a five-member selection panel during its Annual General Meeting on September 21. The committee believes that such a step is in direct contravention to the committee's guidelines. The Lodha panel had earlier warned the BCCI to not carry out any business related to the current financial year. As per latest reports, the Chief Justice is likely to take up the matter with the BCCI and the Lodha panel in court. In July, the Supreme Court directed the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to implement the recommendations of the Lodha panel and gave them six months to do it. The panel was constituted in January 2015 to clean up Indian cricket, in light of the spot-fixing scandal that erupted in the 2013 edition of the Indian Premier League.

The court accepted all of the panel's recommendations except for one on the broadcasting of cricket matches, which it left for the BCCI to decide. Other key recommendations that were upheld included the one state-one vote directive, capping the age of office-bearers at 70 years, and admitting an official from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India into the BCCI. It also ruled that Parliament would have to decide on whether the cricket board came under the ambit of the Right to Information Act. Moreover, the apex court further declared that no ministers or serving bureaucrats could serve on the cricket board. Long-time observers contend that the one state-one vote directive would completely change existing power structures within the organisation. The fixing of tenures for all BCCI office-bearers, which is another key recommendation, could leave many of Indian cricket’s most powerful men facing an immediate exit. In a further bid to curtail the excessive powers of those who run the game, the court’s judgment dismissed the BCCI and State Associations’ rejection of the Lodha panel recommendation that office-bearers should not enjoy “dual positions” simultaneously on the Board and in State cricket bodies. However, these recommendations are neither new nor revolutionary.

Under the National Sports Development Bill of 2013, brought in by the UPA government, such recommendations had found their way into a common law governing sporting bodies across India. In fact, the UPA government had drafted a law to prevent sporting fraud. However, the National Sports Development Bill never saw the light of day due to vested interests in the previous government. There is no doubt that BCCI is a cosy cartel of vested interests, whose only interests are to protect its massive profits. However, some have argued that the apex court has gone way beyond its constitutional brief to try and impose a solution on the cricket body is run. Even though it is the sole guardian of cricket in this country, the BCCI is still a private body. 

The problem with Indian cricket is not the BCCI, but lack of competition. What Indian cricket requires is an environment that facilitates healthy competition and does not breed a monopoly. Back in the 1970s, the legendary Australian media baron Kerry Packer took on the establishment and created the one-day international (ODI) format, which took the game beyond traditional five-day test matches. In India, media tycoon Subhash Chandra had also floated a rival cricket for T20. But he lacked Packer’s will to stay on course and challenge the BCCI establishment. It is not the apex court’s place to decide how the BCCI or cricket should be administrated. In a recent column for Swarajya, noted columnist R Jagannathan writes: “Cricket is a game; there is money in it; it will attract investors and audiences. It could do with a regulatory body that is fair and impartial. It is this regulatory body that is missing. Instead of asking the government to set up one, it has focused on how the BCCI should be run as if courts have all the answers. What if the BCCI still remains a rogue body even after all this change? Will the Supreme Court then offer a mea culpa?”
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