Millennium Post

Necessary changes

The betting and spot-fixing scandal during the 2013 edition of the Indian Premier League have left an indelible mark on Indian cricket . It took the intervention of the Supreme Court to get the wheels of justice turning. On January 22, the apex court had appointed a committee led by Justice RM Lodha to look into issues arising out of the spot-fixing and betting scandal. The court had also asked the committee to decide on the quantum of punishment for franchise officials and the teams involved and ascertain whether the IPL’s CEO, Sundar Raman, was guilty of malpractice. In its judgement, the apex court had also stated that former BCCI president N Srinivasan would not be allowed to contest the Indian cricket body elections till the conflict of interest issue was resolved. N Srinivasan’s dual role as erstwhile president of the BCCI and owner of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) franchise had come under the scanner of the Justice Mudgal Committee, following its initial investigation into the IPL spot-fixing case. To the uninitiated, the Justice Mudgal committee was a precursor to the Lodha committee. The Mudgal committee had indicted top officials of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals franchisees for their involvement in betting during the 2013 edition of the Indian Premier League. In a further blow to Srinivasan, however, the court had also annulled a controversial amendment to the BCCI’s rule that allowed officials to own commercial interests in the IPL and other such tournaments. The only solace for Srinivasan, however, was that he was spared of corruption allegations, although the court had cast serious aspersions. Fast forward to July 14, the Lodha committee recommended life bans for CSK “team principle” and Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan and Rajasthan Royals official Raj Kundra. On Monday, the Lodha committee had exonerated Sundar Raman, saying it could not find definitive evidence of involvement in betting or spot-fixing. However, the highlight of Lodha committee was the report it released on bringing transparency to the administration of Indian cricket.     

Some of the major recommendations by the committee include debarring those accused of corruption or those holding government office from assuming posts within the BCCI, forming a players association that would have a role in the cricket body’s governing council, having only one cricket association per state as an affiliate of BCCI, bringing the cricket body under the ambit of the RTI, legalising sports betting and limiting the number of terms an office-bearer can hold to three (including two consecutive terms), among others. Suffice to say, these recommendations, which are not binding on the BCCI, could pave the way for greater transparency in the game. 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. Key policy changes such as having professional or former players in sporting associations and the limiting the number of terms an office-bearer can hold, among others, were all included in the Bill. In fact, the UPA government had drafted a law to prevent sporting fraud, something which the Lodha committee report states in great detail. The Bill on sporting fraud still awaits approval from Parliament. However, the National Sports Development Bill never saw the light of day due to vested interests in the UPA government itself. Suffice to say, Indian cricket is a multi-party politician dominated racket. 

In response to the Lodha committee report, the BCCI has decided to set up a committee which will  study the report and the recommendations thoroughly before any new recommendations are implemented. Quite naturally, former chairman, N. Srinivasan and a few other administrators have said that the proposals were not feasible. Although the Lodha Committee report is recommended reading for those who want to understand the current malaise in Indian cricket, it would be fair to suggest that most of its recommendations are likely to be put aside. The only way to bring greater transparency and accountability to the BCCI and other sporting federations is a law on the lines of the National Sports Development Bill. However, given the current logjam in Parliament and the deep involvement of politicians across party lines, there seems no way such a law can be passed. 
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