BCCI vs Lodha Committee: A corrupt cabal takes on the Apex Court

The clash between the BCCI and the Supreme Court has become an unseemly confrontation which refuses to end
Sandeep Kumar Delhi
 

As Team India, fans and social media celebrate the historic feat of winning the #500 and #501 Tests, at the same time it appears that the status of the entire Indian cricketing calendar, both international and domestic along with the IPL season, remains in serious jeopardy. The spat between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Lodha Committee is not just about cricket, it has also to do with the messy confrontation between the centre and the Supreme Court. Otherwise, the BCCI, which is headed by a ruling party MP, Anurag Thakur, would not have the guts to take on the might of the SC and tell their lordships that it cannot follow their orders.

Fuelled by the casual and denying approach of the board, which missed the first recommendation deadline, the Lodha Committee has directed Bank of Maharashtra and Yes Bank, which holds the accounts of the BCCI, not to disburse any funds for the financial decisions taken by the board at its Special General Meeting on September 30.  

The Supreme Court has now stopped all further payments to state associations of the BCCI until they pass special resolutions adopting the Lodha panel reforms. Moreover, the court will now hear on October 17 whether the BCCI office-bearers should be sacked and interim administrators appointed for refusing to implement the Lodha reforms.

“It has come to the notice of this Committee that certain decisions have been taken at the ‘Emergent Working Committee’ meeting of the BCCI on 30th September 2016 to disburse large funds to the various member associations,” the Lodha Committee said to Bank of Maharashtra and Yes Bank in an email that was also copied to BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke, treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry and chief executive Rahul Johri. “You are aware that by way of this Committee’s direction dated 31.8.2016, no further decisions were to be taken regarding the future apart from routine matters. The disbursement of these amounts are not routine, and in any case, not emergent.”

The BCCI labelled the order account-freezing and even raised the fear of cancellation of the entire series. The committee clarified that the board’s account has not been frozen, but that two specific payments from the board to the state associations had been stopped. On September 30, the board decided to allot Rs 10 crore as an increment to the state associations’ existing infrastructure subsidy of Rs 60 crore to all its full members. The board also gave a green signal for the distribution to all the members of the compensation from the broadcaster for the cancellation of the Champions League T20.

Ever since the spot-fixing scandal broke in May 2013 during the sixth edition of the IPL, the BCCI and Indian cricket have been facing new lows every now and then. The board, which was under pressure to clean up the chaos after the Lalit ModI controversy, failed to handle the turmoil. Things kept getting murkier day by day and the Supreme Court had to intervene. The SC appointed an apex committee under retired Justice RM Lodha, with Justices Ashok Bhan and RV Raveendran, in January 2015 to determine appropriate punishments for some of the officials involved in the 2013 IPL corruption scandal, and also to propose changes to streamline the BCCI, reform its functioning, prevent sporting fraud and conflict of interest.

The committee submitted its report on January 4, 2016, with a set of recommendations which rattled the entire hierarchy of the board and the state associations. The two- judge bench comprising TS Thakur, the Chief Justice of India, and Justice Ibrahim Kalifulla, gave a green signal to the recommendations by signing most of the proposals in order to revamp the entire cricketing structure being operated in the country. Here is a summary of the case which has been in the news for two-and-a-half years:

April14, 2015 – Questions for BCCI

The Lodha Committee sends 82 questions to understand how the BCCI operates and runs cricket in India. The key questions included:

  • What are your views on the BCCI being constituted as - (i) Society under the Societies’ Registration Act; (ii) Company under the Companies Act; (iii) Public Trust? Which is best suited and why?
  • What is the basis for zonal rotation of the President? Would it not be appropriate to have open elections for the posts? Can a candidate contest from a zone/region to which he does not belong?
  • On what basis does the BCCI nominate Indian representatives on the ICC and its various committees? Is there an electoral college and what are the parameters of selection?
  • On what basis are tour managers and technical crew for the teams selected? Are there tests and interviews? Are these advertised? What is the remuneration for these and do these engagements have tenures or are they open-ended?
  • To what extent are players represented on the board and is there any channel for their grievances to be aired? 

In July 2015, the committee suspended India Cements and Jaipur IPL, the owners of the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals franchises, for two years and handed life bans to Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra on involvement in cricket matches.

January 4, 2016 – Recommedations which must be followed

The Lodha Committee recommends one-state-one-vote (for all functional members and non-members), suggests clear and stringent eligibility criteria for the board’s office-bearers and sets limits on their tenure in office. Ministers and bureaucrats will not be allowed to hold positions on the board, nor will those holding positions in their state associations or those above 70 years of age. (That could rule out many current office-bearers from the central and state boards including BCCI President Anurag Thakur, Rajeev Shukla; Chairman of IPL, SharadPawar, Jyotiraditya Scindia etc.) There will now be five elected office-bearers – president, secretary, one vice-president instead of the current five, treasurer and joint secretary – and they will serve a maximum of three terms of nine years each across positions. Also, they will not be able to serve two consecutive terms. 

Other recommendations by the panel were:

  • President’s powers have also been curbed: he no longer has an additional vote at meetings, nor does he have a say in team selection
  • Replaced the Working Committee, the BCCI’s highest decision-making body, with a nine-member Apex Council, which will include representatives from the players’ community, including one woman. There will also be a nominee of the Comptroller and Auditor General, presumably to keep an eye on how the board’s vast resources are utilised
  • Transparency: recommended appointment of three independent officials – an ombudsman, an ethics officer and an election officer – to look into the three contentious areas within the BCCI: conflict of interest, dispute resolution and election processes.
  • No more zonal nomination for president’s post
  • Restrict total tenure of office-bearers in any capacity to two terms, not exceeding six years. Tenure of president will not be longer than three years
  • Only ex-cricketers in state associations and implementation of proper stadium rotation policy
  • Legislature must consider bringing BCCI under purview of Right to Information Act
  • Each selection committee to comprise only three members. Senior selection committee to be made up of former international Test cricketers, with the most capped former player among the three chairing the committee
  • Protection of players’ interests by registering agents under prescribed norms of BCCI and players’ association
  • BCCI to share details of rules and regulations, norms, meetings, expenditures, balance sheets, reports and orders of authorities on its website
  • An independent auditor to verify how the full members have expended the grants given to them by the BCCI

Taking a dig at the fact that India is the only country that doesn’t have a players’ body, the committee recommended the formation of a players’ association and also laid strict rules for the players’ agents.

  • An applicant needs to submit a clearance certificate issued by the ICC ACSU, and must not have any criminal record.
  • There should be no conflict of interest or dual representation.
  • A player’s agent is required to undertake that he will charge no more than a maximum agent fee of 2% of the total annual revenue earned.
  • The five-member committee on agent regulation will have powers to initiate disciplinary proceedings against agents.

February 19, 2016: BCCI points out variances in the Lodha Committee report

Anurag Thakur, the then Secretary of the BCCI, is asked to file an affidavit to counter the recommendations. Though the anomalies and objections were not elaborated in the media, it was later stated that the board was not happy about coming under the Right to Information Act, the one-state-one-vote rule (major objection from Maharashtra and Gujarat as they have three teams), the age cap for office-bearers along with restrictions on advertisements during the ODIs and Tests. Later, the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) files an intervention against the one-state-one-vote recommendation.

July 18, 2016: SC accepts majority of the recommendations

After grilling which continued for several months, the SC mocked the objections mentioned by the board. When Thakur raised the issue of there being no consultations before the recommendations were finalised, the bench came up with a counter punch. “It was international news that we had formed the Justice Lodha Committee to so uggest reforms in cricket. The whole world knew it. Now you come to us and say the recommendations were a bolt from the blue for you and you were not consulted... What were you doing? Waiting at the fence for a written invitation?”

Responding to objections on the advertising intervals which would hurt the board’s income, the bench asked, “Do you mean that your commerce should overtake the enjoyment of the game?”

On the Baroda Cricket Association’s argument that implementing one-state-one-vote would lead to ‘enormous politics’ within the board, the bench replied, “You are right. Seven votes will come to the northeast where there is no cricket that we know [of]. But we don't know the game of seven votes. Can you elaborate what the politics will be?”

The bench went on to blast Arvind Datar, senior counsel for the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA), over the age cap objection. “You have been given five more years. You had a president [the late Jagmohan Dalmiya] who could not speak, could not communicate. Those who elected him [in 2015] did not see whom they were electing? These days, even in politics people are retiring.”

Deadlines: The SC ordered the BCCI to implement the recommendations in four to six months.

The September 30 deadline:

  • Memorandum of Agreement and Rules and Regulations of BCCI to be formally adopted
  • Amendment to the constitutions of the affiliate units of BCCI
  • Amendment of IPL rules relating to Code of Conduct for Players & Team Officials, Anti-Corruption Code for Participants, Anti-Racism Code for Players & Team Officials and Operational Rules
  • Policies to be framed to decide order of rotation among members of Gujarat and Maharashtra under the one-state-one-vote policy, fund disbursements among members, the provision for 15-day gap between India’s cricketing calendar and the IPL, engagement of services and contractors and transparency of tenders
  • Amendment to the agent registration norms
  • Commencement of a Cricket Players’ Association with notification to the steering committee
  • Addition of Puducherry as an Associate Member of BCCI

The October 15 deadline:

  • Creation of handbooks for Disabled Cricket and Young Cricketers
  • Creation and update of websites for: link for Disabled Cricket, Translation of all Rules, Norms, Reports, Minutes and Circulars into Hindi and uploading both versions, links to stadia, facilities, ticketing and seat details, transparency of member associations
  • Reorganisation of zones
  • Appointment of Electoral Officers for the BCCI and the state units

Things look very bleak for the most powerful and wealthiest board in the cricketing universe, as the SC is adamant to make the board either “fall in line” by accepting the recommendations or “face the music”.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: OCTOBER 2016