Though it is unwilling to implement the Lodha panel guidelines, the Supreme Court is expected to push it down the path of deep structural reforms
The Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) is at loggerheads with the Supreme Court (SC)-appointed panel headed by Justice RM Lodha that, in January, had suggested sweeping reforms to the way the Board is run. The Board, through a four-member panel headed by former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju, had challenged the legal validity of the Lodha panel guidelines.
The BCCI is unwilling to implement the major reforms that will essentially change its structure and ensure that incumbent officials are all kept out of power; it has however implemented some of the smaller reforms that the panel had called for. However, BCCI has missed the first deadline, September 30, to effect constitutional changes.
The Lodha panel submitted a status report in the Supreme Court on September 29, after BCCI decided, at its Annual General Meeting on September 21, to appoint a five-member selection committee, violating the panel’s guidelines.
The panel has pleaded before the SC to let a court-appointed panel of administrators supersede the existing BCCI office-bearers to ensure the reforms are carried out. The court had given the BCCI time till October 6 to explain why it had not complied with the guidelines.
On Thursday, the dispute between arguably the most successful sports administration body in the country and the high-powered panel had its final hearing at the Supreme Court, and the apex court told the BCCI to provide an unconditional undertaking that it will implement the Lodha panel reforms, or the court will pass orders to the effect. With BCCI having declined to give any such undertaking, the final order in the matter is expected today—this will put an end to the long legal tussle.
Why was the Lodha panel appointed?
After the Justice Mukund Mudgal committee—appointed by the Supreme Court as an investigator into the IPL spot-fixing scandal—submitted its report, the apex court formed the Justice RM Lodha-led panel on January 22, 2015, with retired SC judges Ashok Bhan and R Raveendran as members, to determine the appropriate punishments for Gurunath Meiyappan (son-in-law of the then BCCI president, N Srinivasan) and Raj Kundra and the respective IPL franchises they were associated with (all were indicted in the Mudgal report), examine the role of Sundar Raman, the IPL chief operating officer, in the scandal and impose an appopriate quantum of punishment on behalf of the BCCI and, most important, suggest amendments to the processes followed by the BCCI to ensure the prevention of sporting frauds and conflict of interests and chart out a path for functioning that was more receptive of the expectations of the public at large.
Any action the committee ordained against Meiyappan, Kundra, their respective IPL franchises and Raman were to be treated as final and binding whereas the suggestions on BCCI reforms were to be treated as recommendations.
How did the panel’s report shape up?
In July 2015, the committee, basing on the Mudgal investigations, handed a two-year suspension order to India Cements and Jaipur IPL, owners, respectively, of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals teams. It also handed a life-ban to Meiyappan, who was associated with CSK, and Kundra, a co-owner of the Royals.
The panel built upon its interactions with players (former and current), other stakeholders, and famously, a 82-point questionnaire for the incumbent and former top officials of the Board (seeking exhaustive details of how the richest administrative body in the cricketing world is run). The questionnaire, as per a report by ESPN Cricinfo, the questions were split into eight sections, aimed at understanding the Board’s and stakeholders’ functions, the Board’s basis and the process followed for setting up various committees, elections, players’ welfare, conflict of interests and the Board’s notorious resistance to transparency. In January 2016—after having sought an extension from the apex court—the Lodha committee submitted its final report that contained recommendations for reform hailed as ‘transformative’ by many.
What were the key recommendations?
The panel’s recommendations include:
An Apex Council, which has the Board’s president, vice-president, secretary, joint secretary and treasurer, to replace the BCCI Working Committee.No government servant or minister can serve on the Board.Members’ age capped at 70 years, thereby effectively disallowing the likes of Srinivasan and Sharad Pawar from serving.No more than nine years overall in any office for an individual, with each term being a maximum of three years. No more than two consecutive terms for office-bearers.A cooling-off period of three years after each term for every elected Apex Council member. The president can’t hold the office for more than two years.
One vote per state. So, even if a Maharashtra has three associations, Mumbai, Vidharba and Maharahstra, it gets only one vote. So, does Gujarat, despite its three associations.BCCI must come under RTI Act.Betting must be legalised. Separate governing bodies for IPL and BCCI.
Associate membership for members like Railways, services, which means they will not have voting rights.
How has the BCCI reacted so far?
To be sure, the Board relented to some of the smaller changes the panel suggested. It has agreed to induct a representative of the Comptroller and Auditor General into the BCCI Apex Council and the IPL Governing Council. It even agreed to form the Apex Council, only it has insisted that all working committee members will be given membership. It will also put in place committees to oversee women’s cricket and cricket for the differently-abled and allow a Players’ Association to come up, in keeping with the recommendations. But it has flatly refused to implement the ones that are likely to bring in a structural overhaul. It has refused to disallow ministers and government servants from serving on the Board, as well as to cap members’ age. It also disagreed with the panel on spacing the IPL in a manner that there was a 15-day window before and after the IPL and a match/series involving the Indian team.
The Supreme Court accepted the Lodha committee’s recommendations on July 18, 2016 and attached it as a part of its order in the matter, which meant BCCI needed to comply with them. But BCCI has challenged this many times, in court and outside. It refused to go ahead with the recommendations and formed a panel under Katju to respond to the Lodha panel. The response called the recommendations ‘illegal’, highlighting that BCCI was formed as a private body under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act (TNSRA) 1975, and as per the law, any change in the constitution of the BCCI could only be brought about with the approval of the Board members and there was no way the government could intervene unless a new law or an amendment to the TNSRA was made to that effect. Many noted cricketers, including Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar, too came out in support of BCCI.
The Board conducted its matters in a business-as-usual manner despite the recommendations of the Lodha committee and the deadlines attached to them. On October 1, three days after the Supreme Court had censured it during a hearing on September 28—the apex court had even said that it “knew how to get its order implemented”— BCCI convened a special general meeting to get state associations to vote on whether to accept or reject the guidelines. It had earlier, on September 30, convened a Emergent Working Committee meeting, where decisions were taken regarding financial allocations to the state associations. Confronted with a belligerent BCCI, the Lodha panel wrote to banks that handled BCCI’s accounts to not disburse the money as directed by BCCI. This brought the clash to an ugly turn with BCCI saying that India’s tour of New Zealand would effectively stand cancelled with its accounts “frozen” by the Lodha panel.
The amicus curae in the case told the Supreme Court that the allocations had been made to the state associations to influence their representatives in the Board to vote against the adoption of Lodha panel recommendations.
On various earlier occasions, the Supreme Court bench, headed by CJI Justice TS Thakur, has expressed severe displeasure with the way BCCI has handled the entire matter. It has even said that the BCCI was behaving like a “law unto itself”. However, the fact remains that the BCCI is the most successful cricket board in the world, and probably the most successful sport administrator in India.
What happens now?
With BCCI declining to give the undertaking that the SC required of it, the apex court is expected to give an order that is upholds the Lodha panel’s plea—that the BCCI working committee is superseded by a court-appointed panel of administrators. This could mean a drastic change for cricket administration in the country in the interim. The BCCI, as the country has come to know it, may have to re-engineer itself.