New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday ordered sweeping changes at the Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) and moved to effectively clip the wings of a handful of its regional affiliates and their ageing bosses.
The court gave BCCI six months to implement the changes under the watch of a committee led by former Supreme Court chief justice R.M. Lodha that had recommended a shakeup of the country’s most powerful—and richest—sports body.
A bench comprising Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and justice Ibrahim Kalifullah also upheld the ‘one state, one vote’ formula recommended by the Lodha committee in its report.
This means that states with more than one cricket association, as in the case of Gujarat (Saurashtra, Gujarat and Baroda) and Maharashtra (Mumbai, Maharashtra and Vidarbha), will have voting rights on a “rotational basis”—one at a time.
In its ruling, the SC said that while Gujarat and Maharashtra can continue to have three associations, only one of them can vote at a time.
The recommendation effectively also relegated the non-territorial members of the board to the status of associate members without voting rights. These include the Kolkata-based National Cricket Club, the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai and the three institutional members—Railway Sports Promotion Board, Services Sports Control Board and All India Universities.
Expressions of disappointment followed quickly.
“While we accept and respect the verdict of the Hon. Supreme Court, it is disappointing, especially since we are one of the associations impacted by the ‘one state, one vote’ rule,” said Niranjan Shah, secretary of the Saurashtra Cricket Association. “We feel that our membership has been taken away without any particular reason. It is a blow to cricket in our region.”
A senior official of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) added, “It is unfortunate that a historic association like the MCA will have to wait for its turn to vote in the BCCI. Our president will speak to other associations from the state and discuss this further.” This person spoke on condition of anonymity.
The SC order also barred serving civil servants and ministers from being on BCCI’s board or that of their respective state associations. This could affect the likes of Himanta Biswa Sarma, the newly elected Assam Cricket Association chief, or even the Tripura Cricket Association, which has traditionally seen the state’s bureaucrats in charge.
The SC also accepted a recommendation which stipulated that office-bearers of BCCI must not be over 70 years of age. This would also apply to state associations, ruling out several current members.
Prominent among those are MCA president Sharad Pawar, N. Srinivasan, who heads the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) and Saurashtra Cricket Association’s Shah.
“While we respect the verdict of the Supreme Court, it is unfortunate if our president (Pawar) has to step down from his post, especially given the progress Mumbai cricket has made in the last 15 years under his leadership,” said P.V. Shetty, joint secretary of MCA.
A TNCA official added, “We have to accept the SC order, even if it affects our president. We did object to it legally, but now that the order is out, it is obvious that it has been overruled.”
The court also upheld the term-limit recommended by the committee. Each of the office-bearers, it proposed, would have a three-year term and could contest a maximum of three terms, with a mandatory cooling-off period after each term.
The committee had also proposed that a nominee from the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) be made a part of BCCI’s managing committee. BCCI opposed the move in court, saying that the presence of a CAG nominee could be seen as “government interference”, which in turn could be grounds for the International Cricket Council to suspend India’s membership.
The court dismissed BCCI’s plea, and upheld the committee’s proposal.
The Lodha committee, comprising Lodha and former Supreme Court judges Ashok Bhan and R. Raveendran, was set up by the apex court to clean up BCCI following the 2013 Indian Premier League betting and spot-fixing scandal.
The SC also ordered BCCI to establish a players’ association and fund it, upholding another key recommendation of the panel.
The committee in its report had proposed that the association offer “membership to all Indian international and most first-class cricketers who had retired not less than five years ago”.
India is one of the few countries without a registered and active players’ association. There have been two previous attempts to set one up. In 1989, Kapil Dev led the Association of Indian Cricketers and, in 2002, the late Indian captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi led the Indian Cricket Players Association during a standoff between players and the BCCI over a sponsorship/ambush marketing issue.
On a day BCCI saw its biggest shake-up, the Supreme Court also granted some relief to the cricket board by allowing it to continue with its broadcasting policy as per existing contracts.
Over the last few years, BCCI and successive governments have been in a tussle over the cricket’s board’s inclusion in the Right to Information Act. The Lodha Committee in its recommendations had supported the inclusion. The court, however, left the matter to Parliament to decide.
Similarly, the apex court did not take a stand on another contentious issue—legalization of betting, which was again a key recommendation of the committee.
“We will not comment on the verdict till we have seen the order,” said a senior BCCI official on condition of anonymity.
Senior BCCI functionary and IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla said the board respected the SC’s decision.
“We will look into how we can implement the Lodha panel recommendations,” Press Trust of India quoted Shukla as saying.
The Supreme Court in its order also upheld the Lodha Committee’s recommendation, to abolish dual posts, i.e., holding two posts at the same time. In BCCI’s case, that would mean holding a post in the state association as well as the cricket board itself. When implemented, this could mean that some of the board’s most senior office-bearers would be compelled to choose one of the two posts they currently hold. For example, BCCI president Anurag Thakur also heads the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association. Likewise, secretary Ajay Shirke is the president of the Maharashtra Cricket Association, and so on. Typically, an elected BCCI office-bearer heads the association he represents at the state level. With the Supreme Court upholding the committee’s recommendations, this could mean an entirely new rung of leadership at the state level should the existing office-bearer choose BCCI.