It is a landmark judgment which could have far-reaching repercussions that go even beyond reforming just the cricket administration in India. The acceptance of all the major recommendations of the Justice Lodha committee by the Supreme Court (SC) is a major victory for a transparent and accountable system of governance and strikes at the root of nepotism and corruption, the bane of India’s sporting culture.
It reflects so poorly on India’s cricket administrators that instead of welcoming the reforms, they chose to contest them in the highest court of law, which exposed them to far greater judicial scrutiny than they would have wanted. For those who attended the SC hearing, it was obvious that the Chief Justice of India Justice TS Thakur and Justice FMI Kalifulla were not impressed by the arguments of a battery of top-notch lawyers representing the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The more the Board argued for reprieve, especially in the clauses that barred ministers from becoming office-bearers, in lifting the age bar of 70 years or one state-one vote, the more scathing were the judges’ observations.
The Board had for all practical purposes become a corporate house and was running a million-dollar empire in a feudal manner. Instead of reforming themselves, they had decided to brazen it out, hiding behind the plea that they perform a private function. The SC had made it clear through their observations that cricket’s popularity and the money that pours into the game is due to its phenomenal fan base that supports the Indian team and not a BCCI XI. This effectively ended the private versus public debate in the latter’s favour and once this demarcation was made, the Board should have seen the writing on the wall.
It would be very interesting now to see how these radical recommendations, which do not allow conflict of interest not just among players but even the office-bearers of the board, play themselves out.
All the office-bearers of the Board, including the president and the secretary, hold dual positions – in the state associations as well as the board. All of them will have to quit one of the two positions.
One of the root causes of corruption -- funds to the tune of Rs 25-30 crore given to the state associations-- will now be scrutinised and audited by a competent authority like a Comptroller and auditor general of India representative. Two former players, one male and one female, will have to be part of a nine-member apex body that will take policy decisions, with a CEO overseeing the day to day running of the Board.
These are all revolutionary changes in the model of governance, the likes of which no sporting federation in the country has ever implemented. It is likely that the ripples of this judgment could percolate down to non-cricketing bodies as well. One can argue that the SC should have brought the Board under the purview of the RTI act and not left it to Parliament to decide on the matter. But this is a minor quibble in a judgment that could change forever the face of sporting administration in the country.
The author tweets as @pradeepmagazine