The sweeping recommendations by the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha committee promises a root and branch shake-up of the influential Indian cricket Board.
Two days after the three-member panel delivered its verdict, former CJI RM Lodha explains what led to the panel --- Justices (retd) RV Raveendran and Ashok Bhan are the other members --- taking each of the major decisions in this exhaustive interview, be it keeping out ministers and government servants, recommending ‘one man, one post’, ‘one state, one vote’ etc.
Could you please tell us how it all began?
As you know, January 22 in the morning, Justice Thakur called me and asked whether I would accept heading the committee related to cricket matters. I had already indicated when I retired that I would not take up any government position and also I will have some time for the family.
So, after three months were over, he told me. By the time he had also taken consent from the two judges, Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice RV Raveendran and I said that this is an opportunity to work which is different from the judicial work. And the mandate given by the Supreme Court was to reform BCCI’s practices and procedures and amendments in the memorandum of associations’ rules and regulations and also committee’s view on the Mudgal committee’s report.
So we studied a few materials, did some research and decided that there are 8-9 broad structures related to constitution, governance, management, members and their voting patterns, elections, auditing accounts, transparency and accountability and all that. So we sat and framed almost 135 questions and circulated to the existing BCCI office-bearers.
Then we decided and shortlisted how many people we have to meet and who are the people who would be useful to us. So the first thing we thought, before we meet persons outside BCCI we must meet the office-bearers and find out what they say about their own functioning.
Was their view also that they need to be reformed?
On certain aspects they were open to changes and on certain aspects, they were not.
What were the aspects they were open to change?
Somebody told us auditing of the state associations, because they don’t know how the money is spent. So, there were certain things like these, but some of them were saying it’s absolutely fine. Then we met various state association officials, also past office-bearers, national cricket players, Ranji players, captains, etc.
From where did the really good inputs come?
Past cricketers gave us good inputs; some were fair, some answered diplomatically, but they told us about certain difficulties like membership for cricketers. Like at many places, international cricketers are not even made members. Even Ranji players are not made members. More focus is on social club. More focus is on people who own clubs.
In the report, you mention that silence of people is also complicity.
This is a general observation from people who came from diverse fields. These were people involved with the game. So this silence maybe because they lacked complete knowledge on a particular aspect or they thought it is better they don’t disclose or say beyond what they wanted to say.
What was the most difficult part to deal with?
The structuring of the BCCI. Like one state, one vote. We had given a lot of thought to it because we knew what this is about. Certain members were there due to historic reasons. It started with seven or eight provinces. We then went through (reports) like Australian cricket reforms and the report given by Crawford and Carter. We were impressed by the way they dealt with this issue in their board structure.
They rightly thought that there is a partnership of states in an establishment like this which is a national body, geographical situation, population even productivity of producing talent. That might be relevant consideration but not for votes. They decided that each state must have two votes. Tasmania, which is the smallest state, has two and Victoria, which is very big, also has two votes.
We were guided by two fundamental observations made by the SC. BCCI discharges public functions, and by the tacit approval of the union and state, BCCI has acquired monopoly over cricket.
If that be the position, obviously, some states are small, some are big, some have multiple memberships; so far as voting rights are concerned, they should be equal. You can’t distinguish between Arunachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh or MP and Tripura because all are equal.
We also thought that cricket is a game for which people all over the country have a passion and the best way is to integrate people and states by providing them equal rights.
Didn’t you envisage resistance?
Look, there are a few things, convention and convenience in these matters. When the game evolves, changes take place. We knew there are bound to be multiple responses to these recommendations because some people have interests and they may not be agreeable to it. We have said that the existing members who will be affected have to realise that the central idea is the development and betterment of the game.
When you put this restriction of minister and bureucreats, did you not think it may not be legally tenable?
A minister has a constitutional obligation to discharge his official duties. The way the game has evolved and the way the BCCI has grown, particularly in the last ten years, the administrator’s job, though honorary, is not a part-time job and therefore it is not humanly possible to give full time if you are a minister. Same holds true for a government servant.
In 1982-85, NKP Salve was a minister in the Indira Gandhi cabinet and was also the president of the board. The PM felt Salve was not able to give full time to his ministerial job. She asked him what was happening? The answer of Salve was “I am doing what I love, If need be I am prepared to leave my cabinet position.”
Do you foresee a problem with your recommendation of Board coming under RTI goes?
The people have the right to know what is happening, what are the functions and activities of the Board.
Yet you say the legislature should think about it. So, in a way the RTI question is open ended?
That is for the consideration of the legislature. We can’t command legislature. It is a recommendation to the legislature to consider it seriously. It is for the parliament to take a decision on this?
So, will the board have to come under the RTI?
Not at all. We have not said that but we have said that the legislature must seriously consider bringing BCCI under the purview of the RTI Act.
Are your recommendations legally binding on the board?
Look, the committee was appointed by the SC which mandated us to do certain things and the rest must follow. The SC has not given us a mandate that ‘you gave the report and see it is implemented’. SC has not said that. People will realise this because of the way SC felt it necessary to intervene.
Conflict of interest issues were not resolved. Betting problems were not resolved. Lot of tweaking in the rules etc. were being done. So SC intervened and felt the time has come, the BCCI needed reforms and appointed us to look into all this.
What would be your view if a challenge comes from the board?
As a judge on the judicial side, the matter will be decided on judicial parameters. But SC does not say so many things. In British legal and judicial history, even Writ of Mandamus is never issued with an expression like shall. If the court wants the state to do something, it says it may be done. It is taken as it will be done. I don’t want to comment anything on this part because of what we have given and we did not give, only for BCCI to gather dust on it. So, implementation-wise people in BCCI will take wise decisions.
You have said there were players who could not get what conflict of interest was all about?
All of them are top players, nobody can doubt their integrity and two or three of them are former captains. Their understanding of conflict of interest is different. They feel from the inside of their heart they are honest, so what they believed in was not wrong. So, it’s all lack of education.
Did you have to convince them?
Of course. Two former captains, we have so high regard for them. They honestly said they never knew about it. They are sportspersons, they have given everything to the sport. They perhaps think after retirement if they are getting something from the game, maybe it is legal; but in ethical arena it is seen as conflict.
They perhaps never realised they were in conflict. I will not blame them. It could be because of the lack of knowledge/awareness/realisation not otherwise, but they were surprised. But when we explained that this is what is happening ‘you are getting money, you are holding position there/you are mentor of this and that’ they realised, ‘yes’.
The idea of players association?
We found that all Test playing nations have players’ association. India was the only exception. Two reasons why we felt of doing this was because there was a unanimous view amongst past players of repute and also a few others, may not be cricket administrators, that cricketing matters must be (handled by them). So, we thought the time has come, players’ voice in the cricket administration is a must for the betterment of the game.
Did you feel the need at any stage that there should be a certain percentage reserved for the players in the Board?
That we have made it. We actually took a very reasonable decision that the players’ representation is enough. And of course, two members of nine-member Apex Council is about 20%.
Did the three names (Kumble, Mohinder, Eduljee) you have given to create the structure come up randomly?
Randomly. There were two or three options for us. One was to leave it to BCCI and other was players themselves at initial stage decide who these persons will be. But then we thought it will not work because BCCI may not do it and players may not perhaps come to any consensus.
You went into detail about agents. Did you speak to players that a lot of wrong things are happening.
Yes. This is broadly because of lack of knowledge. They don’t have an idea how much harm this can cause. Once we talked with them, I think it was appreciated that some guidelines can be put in place.
You deal at length with conflict of interest.
This is one thing that triggered the whole exercise. We were very serious about it. It is not that all conflict of interest can be resolved, some can be resolved by disclosure, by recusal etc. That is how we have given it a very broad framework and have made provision for an ethics officer, who in case of any problem / difficulty will take a call. Because in law we say you can’t anticipate all situations and you can’t comprehend all situations.
Doing away with the proxies, was it prompted by what was happening in the DDCA?
Not just that, there were many other associations with similar problems. Now, wherever individual members are there and the number is huge, proxy system is there. Delhi again the same thing. So, it not just relates to DDCA as it is happening at other places as well.
You referred to heart burning due to payment disparity in IPL?
Yes, two or three past players told us a few stories about this disparity also. Besides that, we were told that a young player from a modest family gets a contract. Now the money that flows spoils him. Yes, the players’ condition we came to know from them only.
The telecast issue was not part of your brief but you have made a strong pitch that advertisements should be restricted.
In the beginning of the preamble we had said that the central element is the cricket fan before us. At an interesting moment an ad is there, last ball. A player is out, but you get to know only after the man is out. You don’t get a billion dollar contract from heaven. It is the viewership which gets you one billion dollars.
So, saying is easy, that we have made a billion dollars, but who is bringing that? The viewer. And if you are not giving him the complete view, you are illegitimately depriving the viewer from whom you are receiving the money indirectly.