Why is BCCI defying Lodha panel?

If the recommendations become an overreach, instead of clearing the game of evil influences they will leave it debilitated.

 |   Long-form |   07-10-2016
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The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Lodha committee are at loggerheads over the absolute implementation of the panel recommendations.

Earlier this week, the board had reacted dramatically to the Justice RM Lodha committee's direction to banks to freeze its accounts, threatening to call off the remaining matches of New Zealand's ongoing tour of India.

The Supreme Court-appointed panel headed by Justice RM Lodha , in January, had suggested sweeping reforms to the way the BCCI is run. The Board, through a four-member panel headed by retd. Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju, had challenged the legal validity of the Lodha panel guidelines. The board had argued that the Lodha committee had gone beyond its brief and the reforms suggested by the committee will sound the death knell for Indian cricket and destroy the BCCI.

The BCCI is unwilling to implement the major recommendations of the panel because it fears that it will essentially change its structure and that its officials will no longer be able to enjoy the power that it hitherto enjoyed. Though, BCCI implemented some minor reforms as suggested by the panel, but it missed the first deadline, September 30, to bring about constitutionals changes.

On September 28, the Supreme Court had given the BCCI an ultimatum to accept and implement the Lodha panel's recommendations, and that the court "knew how to get its orders implemented".

On September 29, the Lodha committee submitted a status report in the Supreme Court on, after BCCI decided, at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) 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.

The final hearing at the Supreme Court on the matter took place on October 6, when the court came down heavily on the BCCI for non-implementation of the panel’s recommendations. 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.

For now, the Supreme Court has postponed its hearing on the BCCI versus Lodha committee issue until October 17, with the apex court set to be in recess for the next ten days.

It was expected that the SC would on Friday pronounce its order on the Justice Lodha committee's plea, seeking to replace the current BCCI top brass for impeding the panel's work to usher in transparency and accountability in Indian cricket administration.

However, this will now have to wait until October 17, thus handing the BCCI more time to implement the new set of rules and regulations.

Let us look at the background, how the ground was set for the reforms in BCCI ultimately culminating in the stand-off between the Lodha panel and the BCCI.

The Supreme Court formed the Justice RM Lodha panel on January 22, 2015 after the Justice Mukund Mudgal committee-appointed by the Supreme Court as an investigator into the IPL spot-fixing scandal — submitted its report. 

The panel headed by Justice RM Lodha and with retired SC judges Ashok Bhan and R Raveendran as members were mandated 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 appropriate quantum of punishment on behalf of the BCCI.

Most importantly, the court also mandated the panel to suggest amendments to the processes followed by the BCCI to ensure the prevention of sporting frauds and conflict of interests and recommend how the BCCI the BCCI would function in a transparent manner.

Any action the committee determined 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.

Based on the Mudgal investigations, the Lodha panel in July 2015, handed over two-year suspension order to India Cements, the owner of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Jaipur IPL owning the Rajasthan Royal teams. It also handed a life-ban to Meiyappan, who was associated with CSK, and Raj Kundra, a co-owner of the Royals.

In January 2016, the Lodha committee submitted its final report that contained recommendations for sweeping reforms of BCCI, which many hailed as "transformative" in cricketing history.

Lodha panel's recommendations

Here are the Lodha committee’s key recommendations:

1. Nine-member Apex council (Board’s president, vice-president, secretary, joint secretary and treasurer) instead of working committee

2. No government servant or minister can serve on the Board

3. Maximum age limit of 70 years for administrators (thereby effectively disallowing the likes of Srinivasan and Sharad Pawar from serving)

4. No more than nine years overall in any office for an individual, with each term being a maximum of three years

5. No more than two consecutive terms for office-bearers

6. A cooling-off period of three years after each term for every elected Apex Council member

7. The president can’t hold the office for more than two years.

8. Three-member selection committee to pick the Indian team

9. BCCI must come under RTI Act

10. Betting must be legalised

11. Separate governing bodies for IPL and BCCI.

12. 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.

13. Associate membership for members like Railways, services, which means they will not have voting rights.

Even after a strong observation by the SC on September 28, just three days later BCCI held its Special General Meeting (SGM) where it rejected most of the Lodha committee’s recommendation and BCCI President Anurag Thakur said it was "up to members of the board to accept or reject the Lodha committee's suggestions". "Many significant recommendations of Lodha committee were accepted by BCCI members, but those which the members felt there would be legal challenges or practical difficulties have not been accepted," said Anurag Thakur.

The BCCI almost defied the SC observation and resorted to a confrontational stance.

BCCI's rejection of recommendations

The BCCI has accepted some of the recommendations, but it is against every amendment that threatens to clip the wings of its top officials.

1. One of the biggest reforms suggested is to do away with politicians and bureaucrats in the BCCI hierarchy. That would deal a massive blow to the way a state association functions. Political connection is intrinsic to getting quick clearances in matters relating to cricket. Had it not been for Anurag Thakur’s political connection, getting the players’ visa for the quickly fixed T20 series against West Indies in the US would have been difficult. Almost all associations have politicians in their ranks so that it aids cutting through the red tape. Politicians too like to hobnob with cricket officials because this is one sure shot way to get more popular.

2. The maximum age cap of 70 years is another recommendation the BCCI is unhappy with. If this is implemented, most state associations might lose their top officials. Some state association officials say that the BCCI is being unfairly targeted when most sports federations are yet to implement this rule. The bigger worry in this case for officials who are above or nearing 70 is that this could act as a clean-up after which only former cricketers would be available and eligible to run cricket. In many parts of the country, there still exists the belief that cricketers who play and understand the game well need not be great administrators.

3. Under "Better management of BCCI and IPL", the Lodha committee report states that grants shouldn’t be used for maintenance of club or to subsidise expenditure. Unfortunately, most state associations are guilty of refusing to build a revenue model of some kind.

4. Another stand-off is on a tenure cap of nine years with cooling-off periods in between. This allows fresh ideas to come in but the BCCI feels that it would lead to an unnecessary break in an innings that might be just taking off.

5. The BCCI is opposed to the suggestion of composition of the Apex Council. The Lodha committee suggested that it should consist of the five elected office bearers of BCCI (president, vice-president, secretary, joint secretary and treasurer), four other "councillors" – two (one male, one female) to be nominated by the Players’ Association which is to be formed, one to be elected by the Full Members of BCCI from among themselves and one to be nominated by the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) of India.

But the BCCI is in favour of all the members of the working committee remaining a part of the Apex Council. That means the BCCI wants 10 other state associations in the committee to be tagged along.

6. From the perspective of voting rights, it reveals the "please all" attitude of the BCCI towards its state associations. It also justifies their need to oppose the "one-state, one-vote" policy.

The Lodha reforms have been rejected by the BCCI in various instances:

- Senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, who is assisting as an amicus curaie, on October 6 told the Supreme Court that the BCCI defied the Lodha committee’s directive by transferring large sums of money — about Rs 550 crore — to the state associations, despite not forming the disbursement policy mandated by the committee by the September 30 deadline.

- The BCCI in its Special General Meeting (SGM) accepted some recommendations with certain modifications. They have objected to Lodha panel’s suggestion of having representatives (one male cricketer and one female) of the Player Association on the all-powerful Apex Council.

- The BCCI has also objected to giving full vote to the Northeast states as recommended by the Lodha panel. The BCCI has said it will give voting rights to the associate members as per the ICC guidelines. The ICC guidelines are that the votes have to be divided in 3:1 ratio. Three associate and affiliate members form one vote in the ICC.

- The BCCI was supposed to adopt the new draft memorandum by September 30 as proposed by the Lodha committee in its first set of timelines. It was defied by the board by choosing selective recommendations.

- The Lodha committee had recommended at least a 15-day gap between the IPL and the national calendar. The BCCI in its press release after the SGM had stated that the “effort to ensure a 15-day gap between the national calendar and the IPL – the same will not be possible in the year 2017 because of the ICC’s Champions Trophy being scheduled in England at around the same time.”

- The BCCI ignored the Lodha committee’s recommendation to form a three-member selection panel . It went ahead with the five-selector policy and also appointed two first-class cricketers in its senior selection panel which was against the Test criteria set by the Lodha panel.

- BCCI’s biggest act of defiance was when Anurag Thakur & Co conducted their Annual General Meeting, despite the Lodha committee’s guidelines to not transact any new business for the 2016-17 year. It filled the vacant spots in the selection panels of the men’s and women’s teams and elected Ajay Shirke as the BCCI secretary.

What started as a measure to clean the cricket of its malice bring about transformative changes in the cricket body turned into a longstanding standoff between the Supreme Court appointed Lodha committee and the BCCI.

There are two conflicting opinions on the current conflict between BCCI and Lodha panel - the cricket lovers feel on the stipulation that there has to be transparency and accountability on the part of those who run or manage the game in the country. Since this body happens to the BCCI, its officials must be bound by the principles of transparency and accountability, even though the BCCI is a private body, registered under Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act.

While on the other hand, the problem arises if in the name of transparency and accountability, the recommendations of the Lodha committee are too overweening - it would be an overreach and instead of reforming and clearing the game of evil influences, the game will get debilitated in the process. Can there be a middle path to resolve the issue? This will only become clear on October 17 when the apex court resumes hearing on the matter.

Till then the apex court has asked the state cricket bodies not to disburse the funds already given to them by the BCCI without passing a resolution to implement SC-ordered reforms. The court also said that the BCCI would not release any more money to any association without the associate filing an affidavit saying it will implement SC reforms.

Writer

Praveen Shekhar Praveen Shekhar

The writer is Associate Producer, TVTN.

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