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By Atul Lakshman (5th Year Law Student, Bangalore Institute of Legal Studies)
Email id – firstname.lastname@example.org
In the wake of several corruption-related and allegations and spot-fixing incidents in the 2013 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the Supreme Court (SC) intervened and appointed a three member committee, which was headed by Justice Mukul Mudgal.[1While the Mudgal Committee concluded that the then IPL Chief Operating Officer (COO) Sundar Raman, Chennai Super Kings’ owner Gurunath Meiyappan and Rajasthan Royal’s owner Raj Kundra are guilty for betting and that BCCI Chief N. Srinivasan did not act upon the accused despite having knowledge of their violations. Consequently, the Court formed the Lodha Committee to look into more stringent regulations concerning the role of the COO, and make required changes changes within the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). This article looks to examine the implementation of Lodha recommendations by the BCCI and the consequences of its non-compliance. While laying out an informative and objective approach to research, the author with the help of a brief timeline leading to amendments in the BCCI constitution, focuses on the changes in the same after the latest SC order on August 9th 2018.
- Lodha Recommendations
To understand the existing functioning of the BCCI, player-welfare measures, board’s election processes, conflict of interest concerning players and officials and transparency in the governance of the game, the Lodha Committee framed detailed questionnaires directed to the officials, present and ex-players, experts and persons of eminence, etc. As a result of this, the Committee, shook the very foundation of the BCCI with major changes overhauling the extant constitutional structure of the BCCI as follows:
- No BCCI office bearer can hold office for more than two consecutive terms with retirement age capped at 70 years disallowing any bureaucrats and ministers from holding any post in the BCCI. This recommendations state that the President of the BCCI cannot hold office for more than two consecutive years.
- Every state should have one vote only with no provision for proxy voting. This comes as a result of some states like Gujarat and Maharashtra having multiple associations within themselves, each exercising one vote.
- The Lodha report recommended for replacing the Working Committee, BCCI’s highest decision-making body, with a nine-member Apex Council, which will include representatives from the players’ community, mandatorily comprising of one woman.
- The previously existing system of zonal rotation policy for the post of BCCI President should be scrapped.
- The Legislature should consider bringing the BCCI under the ambit of Right to Information Act, 2005.
- An independent auditor should be appointed to look into the expenditure of grants by the Full members of the BCCI.
- The national selection committee should comprise of only three members as opposed to the present five. Each member should have represented India in Test Cricket and the most capped Test cricketer among them would be the Chairman of the National Selection Committee.
- Lead up to BCCI constitution
On February 4, 2016, the SC gave BCCI the date of March 3rd, as the deadline to implement the reforms, after seeing that BCCI had not responded to the Lodha recommendations. A day before the deadline, the BCCI filed an affidavit stating that the board had implemented most of the recommendations except a few like one state, one vote, age cap of 70 years for an office-bearer or a board official, limitations on an office bearer with respect to conflict of interest and restriction on advertisements during Tests and ODIs all of which had been opposed in the BCCI’s Special General Meeting. The Court asked the Lodha committee to look into these matters and in July 2016, passed an order directing the BCCI to comply with all the recommendations within four to six months.Review petition filed by the BCCI against the July 2016 order of the SC was also quashed by the Court.
The SC in January 2017 removed the then President Anurag Thakur as BCCI chief and Ajay Shirke as the Secretary of the BCCI following which the SC appointed a Committee of Administrators (CoA) to administer the implementation of the Lodha recommendations. Till then, only state associations of Hyderabad, Vidarbha and Tripura had agreed to implement the reforms in toto. In February 2017, the CoA directed the state associations to submit compliance reports adhering to the recommendations.
In February 2018, thirteen state associations gave written confirmation about their willingness to implement the Lodha Committee reforms except for provision of cooling off, constitution of the Apex Council and distribution of functions, powers and responsibilities between the elected office bearers and the professional appointees. State associations like Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Tripura had already implemented the Lodha reforms by then. In its previous hearing on May 1, 2018, the SC had directed the state associations and the BCCI office-bearers to put forward suggestions, through the amicus curiae, if they had any, on the BCCI draft constitution to be approved by the SC.
- BCCI’s New Constitution
The Supreme Court in August 2018, finally accepted the changes made to the BCCI constitution while doing away with the one-state-one-vote policy recommended by the Lodha committee. The court accepted BCCI’s draft constitution with certain changes in the cooling-off period of board officials.
- Cooling-off period
As per the amendment, the cooling-off period will be effective after two consecutive terms. The principle of the Lodha committee’s cooling-off period recommendation still holds, but after two consecutive three-year terms at the BCCI or state, or a combination of both. That gives an official a six-year run in office. The court also held that if a person is holding a particular post in the BCCI or a state association, he/she need not go through the cooling-off period if the person is applying for a different post in either of the bodies. However, details about the age limit and tenure specifications for office bearers still remain to be seen in the days to come.
- Full Member Status
The Lodha Committee had recommended that associations with no state entity such as the Railways Sports Promotion Board, Services Sports Council Board, Association of Indian Universities, National Cricket Club (Kolkata) and Cricket Club of India, (Mumbai, Maharashtra) cannot have full membership in the BCCI as the same should be given to state entities and those which field teams in domestic tournaments.
However, the Court granted full membership to Services, Railways and the Association of Indian Universities stating that these associations have been there for more than eight decades and had made continuous significant contributions to Indian cricket. As an effect, these associations will continue to be full members of the BCCI with the power to vote.
- One State One Vote Policy
The Lodha committee had recommended that a state will be given one vote irrespective of the number of associations within the state with the provision of rotational voting by one association every year. Instead, the court restored full membership of three associations in Gujarat and Maharashtra each while not being in consonance with the principle of territoriality devised to deal with the issue of membership. The cricket associations are the Maharashtra, Mumbai and Vidarbha cricket associations and the Gujarat, Baroda and Saurashtra cricket associations. However, the apex court rejected full member status of Cricket Club of India and National Cricket Club situated in Mumbai and Kolkata respectively.
- Selection Committee
The Lodha committee had recommended that the national selection committee should be trimmed from five to three members. The SC accepted the constitution’s expansion of the same to five members stating that given the vast territory of the nation, the extent of cricket being played both at the national and international level, there is a need for selectors to travel extensively to spot talent is a plea strong enough to consider the committee to consist of five members.
- Players’ Association
Among other important changes, the new constitution also makes a provision for a Players’ Association, to be funded by the BCCI, to make provisions for players’ families to accompany them for periods on longer tours in particular, and offering “appropriate remuneration of international standard” to international players.
- Registration of New BCCI Constitution
As per the SC order on August 9 2018, the BCCI was directed to register its amended constitution. Since BCCI is registered as a society under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1976, the new constitution was registered by the Tamil Nadu Registrar of Societies. The time limit given to BCCI to register the same was four weeks from the previous order. In addition, the SC also directed that each of the members of the BCCI should amend their constitution in consonance with the BCCI constitution within 30 days from registration of the latter. The members have to submit compliance certificate to the CoA, which shall in turn file a status report before this Court with reference to the compliance undertaken by each of the members.
Ever since the Lodha recommendations came out, there was always confusion with respect to their interpretation. Although the SC gave the members 30 days’ time to amend their respective constitution, it has been learnt that some members are in limbo with respect to interpreting the clause related to disqualification of office bearers of the BCCI. There has not been the slightest hint of BCCI members complying with the Court order to amend its Constitution and registering it with the local authorities.
- Status of other Lodha Recommendations
It is clear that the BCCI has had its reservations about certain Lodha recommendations. What is intriguing is that, the BCCI has selectively implemented only some of the recommendations and not all of them. Recommendation regarding constitution of the Apex Council to professionally administer and manage the affairs of the BCCI. The Council would consist of nine members out of which five (President, Vice-President, Secretary, Joint Secretary, Treasurer and a member) will be elected by the General Body and others will be recruited using a transparent process. The Court in its recent order upheld this recommendation allowing for setting up of the Council consisting of Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer and other officers who will work separately from the General body in order to professionalize the management of the cricket board. However, it remains to be seen as to when this recommendation will be incorporated in the BCCI constitution. The claim of the board is that this recommendation will hamper the independent functioning of the BCCI. It is apparently believed that some of the of the IPL franchises wanted representation in the Apex Council. The CoA has stated that it will perform the role of the Apex Council and the IPL Governing Council until fresh elections take place.
The court also retained the Lodha panel suggestion to bar government ministers or government servants from holding cricket office. It upheld the age cap of 70 years for cricket administrators which has to subsequently be implemented by the BCCI.
The BCCI had always opposed majority of the Lodha recommendations since the board believed that the latter would infringe the independent functioning of the BCCI. The possible inclusion of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) as a member of the Apex Council has brought fear within the BCCI that the government at the centre would intervene and give rise to political flavour within the Council. As much as the Lodha recommendations look to bring in more transparency from within, some recommendations are worth taking a second look at like the CAG’s representation in the IPL Governing Council, recommendations in relation to advertisements during the broadcast of cricket matches, including that the entire space of the screen during the broadcast to be dedicated to the display of the game, save for a small sponsor logo or sign, which indicate that the Lodha Committee seems to be exercising excess power in recommending such changes. In hindsight, according to experts, what the Lodha Committee, has not taken into account is that the BCCI has been for so long successfully running the game throughout the country without much hindrance unlike the other National Sports Federations. While certain recommendations have been accepted to have a positive effect on the BCCI, the above mentioned are predicted to hamper the progress of the BCCI and subsequently the commercial development of the game in the country. The main argument of the BCCI has always been that the board is independent. Therefore it is not feasible for it to be supervised by any organ of the government or the judiciary. On the flip side, the SC has time and again reiterated that since BCCI discharges public functions, the board should be accountable to the people at large.
In the midst of all this, it still remains to be seen when the other recommendations like constitution of the Apex Council, BCCI’s accountability under the RTI and legalising sports betting in India would be implemented. The current developments do not mark the end of the BCCI-Lodha saga, there is more to be done and deliberated upon by the members and the BCCI. Let us hope slowly and gradually the aim of good administration in cricket is achieved.