In a decisive bid to accelerate the process of cleaning up Indian cricket, the Supreme Court directed the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) earlier this week to implement the recommendations of the Justice 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. Comprising of former Chief Justice RM Lodha and retired Apex Court judges Ashok Bhan and R Raveendran, the committee had announced its first verdict in July that year, recommending the suspension of two IPL franchises for two years. The panel had submitted its second set of recommendations in January this year. In its findings, the panel recommended a complete overhaul of the BCCI, which included sweeping changes to its power structure. Suffice to say, the Apex Court’s recommendations were initially met with great resistance from power brokers within the game. In March, the BCCI had filed a counter-affidavit with the top court, arguing that the committee’s suggestions were impractical.
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. After the court’s verdict earlier this week, senior BCCI members have come on record and said that the board will work towards implementing the Lodha panel’s recommendations. 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. Indian cricket has been a multi-party politician dominated racket for a long time. Habits die hard and hence, implementing these recommendations could take a while. But the apex court has made its position very clear. “The truth is that resistance to change stems partly from people getting used to the status quo and partly because any change is perceived to affect their vested interest in terms of loss of ego, status, power or resources. This is true particularly when the suggested change is structural or organisational which involves some threat, real or perceived, of personal loss to those involved,” Chief Justice Thakur wrote in the 143-page judgment.