Did the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) help the controversial Indian Premier League (IPL) boss, Lalit Modi, by sleeping over the adverse observations made by the Bombay High Court two-and-a-half years back?
The court, disposing of a public interest litigation, challenging Modi’s election as BCCI vice-president had warned that the “Board should not become a tool for musclemen, merchants or power brokers. Stringent regulatory measures framed by the Board itself will have to be implemented in letter and spirit.”
In a striking observation on September 7, 2007, the court had asked the Board “to take care that those involved in criminal cases not just relating to illegal drugs but other serious charges have no place in the administration.”
“When allegations about misuse of funds and abuse of powers are being levelled, then, it is of utmost importance that the Board is manned by people who have experience of playing and administering the game,” the two-judge bench had stated. The court also asked the government not to be a silent spectator to ensure that the BCCI does not become a centre of “power politics.”
“Ultimately, the State cannot remain a spectator to the power game. Time will come when the State will have to use its power and authority to check any mismanagement and mal-administration,” the two-judge bench had stated.
Modi’s election was challenged on the ground that since he was convicted of possessing drugs, kidnapping and assault in the United States during his days as a university student, therefore, he was not eligible to hold the office.
The court declined to unseat Modi on the ground that he was sentenced to a two-year conviction by the General Court of Justice, Durham County, North Carolina, in 1985, and the BCCI rules, barring any convicted person from contesting election, were framed only in the year 2000.
The Board had informed the court that the rules could not be applied from a retrospective effect, following which the court ruled that since the incident in which Modi was convicted was of 1985 and his term as BCCI vice-president was also coming to an end, therefore, he could continue in office.
The High Court had warned that in case the BCCI did not set its house in order, the most popular game in the country could be destroyed. “The Board and its officials ought not be making allegations against each other or else group politics would destroy the game itself. We hope this petition should serve as a reminder to all concerned,” the judges had noted.
Modi has consistently maintained that the allegations levelled against him in the US were thoroughly investigated “and nothing was found against him.”
A petition challenging Modi’s election as President of the Rajasthan Cricket Association in 2005, through which he gained entry into the BCCI and eventually went on to control the IPL, is pending in the Supreme Court.