As a high court chief justice, Ajit Prakash Shah is credited with giving significant rulings like decriminalising IPC section 377 (on unnatural sexual activity), ensuring prisoners had fans and toilet doors, and low-floor buses and ramps in railway stations that made life easier for the disabled.
But taking over as the cricket Board’s ombudsman and deciding on conflict of interest issues has been a different experience for him. These are early days yet, but Justice (retd) Shah has been receiving complaints against individuals with many knocking on his door without fully understanding his role.
“A total of 15 complaints have been received so far. No merit was found in at least five of these cases, which have been either dismissed or disposed of. I must also add that many of these complaints, and certain other letters and communications I have received, show that the role of the ombudsman has not been fully appreciated,” Shah told HT in an interview.
“For example, I received emails asking that certain persons be removed from the Indian cricket team, or that selection processes must change, etc. These are not issues that an ombudsman is designated to look into.”
Coming on board
Shah was appointed in December as the BCCI, under pressure with the Lodha committee report about to deliver its recommendations, introduced rules governing conflict of interest in the hope that the Supreme Court-appointed panel would take a lenient view of its administration.
Justice Shah said it is not possible to have a universal definition of conflict of interest.“Generally speaking, conflict of interest is a situation that arises where someone has multiple interests, which could potentially clash with each other, and which could potentially affect how that person functions in a given circumstance. But it is not possible to have a standard definition of conflict of interest that fits all circumstances.”
Recently, he received a conflict of interest complaint against former Test skipper Sourav Ganguly as he was not only the Bengal association president and member of the IPL Governing Council, but was also a co-owner of Indian Soccer league’s Atletico Kolkata. This came after Atletico co-owner, Sanjiv Goenka, purchased IPL’s Pune franchise.
“When a complaint is received against Mr Ganguly, there is certain due process to be followed. Where the Board is concerned, or has the capacity to answer certain aspects of an allegation, responses have been sought from the parties concerned, including Ganguly and the BCCI,” he said.
“The position of the ombudsman has come about after the BCCI itself acknowledged that it has structural problems. My role is to help them to avoid issues pertaining to conflict of interest in the future. Across-the-board reforms are being introduced. This assignment is an opportunity for me to support the reforms.”