The Supreme Court approved on Monday most of the recommendations made by a panel set up to clean up cricket administration in the country and gave the scandal-ridden sports body six months to implement the sweeping measures.
The verdict will have a bearing on the functioning of the state cricket bodies, which will now be allowed only one vote per state in elections to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the world’s richest cricketing body which had come under the scanner for its opaque functioning and conflict of interests among its top office-bearers.
“We hope this will reform the way cricket is played. It’s for the younger generation,” a bench headed by chief justice TS Thakur said.
Among the measures approved by the top court include the justice RM Lodha panel’s recommendation barring ministers and civil servants and those above 70 from becoming BCCI members but left it to Parliament to decide whether it should come under the Right to Information Act that will open up the body’s huge financial dealings to public scrutiny.
It also accepted the panel suggestion disallowing an office-bearer from holding dual posts in a state cricket association and BCCI.
An office-bearer cannot hold a post for more than three years, the SC said, accepting the committee’s proposal to have a cooling off period between two terms. It rejected the board’s opposition to the suggestion that an apex council member should be there for 9 years, holding there was nothing unreasonable in it.
“We respect (the) SC’s decision. Will look into how we can implement the Lodha panel recommendations,” senior BCCI functionary Rajeev Shukla was quoted as saying by TV channels.
Justice Lodha, who had submitted a 159-page report to the top court, described the verdict as “a great day for cricket and the fans”.
He said the state associations will also be bound to implement the recommendations and the BCCI, which funds them, must ensure there is transparency and accountability.
“Transition for BCCI should not be a problem and the verdict should be taken to logical conclusion. If there is any problem, we will solve it for the board,” Lodha said.
The court had set up the three-member panel last year in the wake of a spot-fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League (IPL), the biggest crisis to hit the cash-rich sports body in the country.
The court’s intervention set in motion a chain of events including a two-year suspension on two IP teams -- Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals -- and a ban on Chennai team principal Gurunath Meiyappan and Rajasthan co-owner Raj Kundra from cricket administration for life for their involvement in spot-fixing.
Subsequently, former BCCI top boss N Srinivasan was also nudged out of the BCCI as the sports body rushed to clean up its act.
The BCCI, however, resisted the Lodha panel recommendations saying they violated its right to administer the sport.
But the CJI made it clear to the BCCI counsel KK Venugopal, “We will not be in this system in (the) future.”
The SC said a member of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) will have to be included in the BCCI’s governing council, which means the board’s finances can now be audited.
While Gujarat and Maharashtra were allowed to have three associations as BCCI members, only one of them will be allowed to vote on rotational basis and the other two will be relegated to associate members. Voting rights of members representing bodies without any territory, such as the Railways and defence services, have been curbed.
A players’ association to be funded by the BCCI should be constituted, the SC said.
The question of legalising betting was within the legislative domain, SC said as it also left it to Parliament to decide whether the information law for transparency should be applicable to the BCCI or not.
In some relief to the board, the court said it was upto the BCCI to determine whether its existing agreement with broadcasters on advertising rights required a change. The Lodha panel had criticised the policy on the ground that advertisements shown during live telecast of matches was not in the interest of viewers.
The court said the issue of IPL franchise representation in the apex council of BCCI will be reconsidered by the panel. The cricket body has opposed inclusion of IPL franchise in the ground it will amount to conflict of interest.
The court verdict was hailed by former India cricketers Bishan Singh Bedi and Kirti Azad.
“Let’s all accept Supreme Court’s verdict gracefully & humbly-after all isn’t health o Indn Crkt more imp than any personality pol/otherwise! (sic),” tweeted Bedi.
Azad too took to Twitter to express his views.
“My stand vindicated, #SupremeCourt accepts Justice Lodha committee report. Wait for my further action against #DDCA and #BCCI (sic),” wrote Azad, who alongside Bedi has led a crusade against alleged corruption in the cricket body of Delhi.