“Do you want to sit over the liquidation of the game in this country?” The Supreme Court had put a foreboding question before the BCCI about the future of Indian cricket. It all began in May 2013 when noted Indian cricketers got arrested on account of fraud and cheating and subsequently, the arrest of owners of two top franchises on similar charges and betting. This made way to Pandora’s box of surprises entangling the BCCI and IPL and thereby, revealing themselves. In pursuance of Public Interest Litigation, the Supreme Court constituted Mudgal Committee to investigate and submit a report on the allegations mentioned above. This led to the suspension of the team owners of the alleged teams and also the stepping down of the BCCI president. For the first time in history, an external agency, the Supreme Court, amended the Constitution of the BCCI. The Supreme Court in its judgement pertaining to the 2013 IPL corruption case struck down the controversial amendment to the BCCI constitution’s clause 6.2.4 that allowed board officials to have a commercial interest in the IPL and the Champions League T20, declaring it as “void and ineffective”, “unsustainable and impermissible in law”.
If this was the consequence, then there had to be certain reasons behind it, and hence, the cure came in the form of formation of the Lodha Committee comprising of a 3 member panel, headed by former Chief Justice of India, RM Lodha, to decide on quantum of punishment for the team owners reported and held guilty in the earlier MUDGAL Report, Role of IPL-COO in the spot-fixing scandal and decide on a punishment, if necessary and finally suggest amendments to the processes followed by the BCCI with a view to preventing sporting frauds and conflict of interest. A questionnaire of 82 points was sent by the panel to top board administrators and stake holders to seek clarity on the functioning of the BCCI. This was used as a guide to recommend changes to the BCCI’s Constitution and functioning. In July 2015, the committee suspended India Cements and Jaipur IPL, owners of CSK and RR respectively. Meiyappan and Kundra were also banned for life with regard to involvement in cricket matches. In January 2016, the Lodha panel submitted its 159 page final report to the Supreme Court in which it has recommended sweeping changes to the BCCI’s administrative and governance structures.
With serious allegations of misconduct and malpractices in the BCCI, the Lodha Committee report seeks to restore Indian cricket to its deserved status by putting in place good governance structures and best practices. Of the many suggestions put forth, the most significant ones are barring ministers and government officials from holding office in the BCCI and legalizing betting in sweeping measures to clean up the scandal-ridden sports body. Although, legalizing betting sounds a drastic suggestion, but the panel was of the opinion that it would help curb corruption in the game and recommended that except for players and officials, people should be allowed to place bets on registered websites. The panel was also of the strong opinion of shaking up of the BCCI from top to bottom as part of its mandate to go into the functioning of the cricket body and address issues of corruption and conflict of interest that threatened the fair name of the game.
“The fact that forces from politics and business see cricket administration as a stepping stone to recognition and publicity is irrelevant to the cricket fan, until he realises, as many embittered souls recently have, that the game is not really being played on the cricket pitch,” the report said. With particular focus on monitoring the huge finances of the BCCI, it has recommended the inclusion of a member from the Comptroller and Auditor General’s office in the IPL body of nine, which will replace the present governing council.
The committee also recommended a cap of three tenures of three years each for BCCI officials, with no two consecutive terms, and an age cap of 70. In a bid to ensure transparency, it was suggested by the committee that the BCCI be brought under the ambit of Right to Information Act in which it will be bound to share administrative and financial details with the public, a move opposed by the Board in the past citing its autonomy. With regard to Membership, Only cricket Associations representing the States would have voting rights as Full Members of the Board. The numbers of Vice Presidents have been pruned from 5 to 1 keeping the other honorary positions of President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and Joint Secretary intact. The introduction of the post of a CEO with strong credentials assisted by a team of managers to handle non-cricketing affairs has been proposed to ensure more professionalism. The institution of Independent monitors is a notable recommendation.
With such drastic and forthcoming recommendations of the committee, it’s time for BCCI to buckle up and live up to people’s expectation. Though many argue that this is a case of judicial overreach, but didn’t the BCCI dig its own grave? What’s quintessential is to protect the sanctity of the game and restore its lost glory. Though the Supreme Court has directed BCCI to “fall in line” with the recommendations of Justice R M Lodha Committee, but for sure the BCCI will have its own defence to one state, one vote. They would vehemently defend the suggestion of coming within the ambit of the RTI Act as the board receives no grants from the Indian government. India being a large country, hence a three-member panel would be too small to be a counterpoint. The recommendation of no entry for ministers and bureaucrats in the board would certainly be challenged as currently some of the most powerful administrators in BCCI are politicians themselves. Whatever may be the consequences of this report; the Committee did certainly set some heads rolling and left BCCI in anxiety. The battle probably has just begun and millions of fans of this beautiful game are eagerly awaiting Justice.