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In power game, Supreme Court verdict gives BCCI officials extra muscle

The fact that more than 170 hearings had failed to resolve the critical issues pertaining to members voting rights, tenure and powers of officials led to enormous amount of scepticism.

cricket Updated: Aug 10, 2018 11:01 IST
Soumitra Bose
Soumitra Bose
New Delhi
supreme court,bcci,bihar
File Photo: A policeman walks past a logo of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)

If Thursday was destined to be an August day in the calendar of Indian cricket, it was not to be. Late on Wednesday evening when news broke that the Supreme Court would deliver its order on how the Indian cricket board will implement the Lodha committee proposals, it was met with a lot of cynicism and also some panic. Less than 24 hours later, the BCCI officials who hated to be reformed, were walking nine feet tall.

The fact that more than 170 hearings had failed to resolve the critical issues pertaining to members voting rights, tenure and powers of officials led to enormous amount of scepticism. Will the three judges, led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, refer the BCCI matter to a larger bench? Will the BCCI officials, refusing to relinquish power and up in arms against the court-appointed administrators, be put on a tight leash?

On July 5, the judges had reserved the order on the BCCI matter after indicating that they would review clauses in the Lodha reforms that were not “practical.” The bench delivered as promised but by loosening the strings on tenure (read: cooling off) and voting rights, it did not leave the main architect of the report, former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha, a happy man.

ALSO READ: Supreme Court order on Lodha reforms ‘excellent’, says CoA chief Vinod Rai

The first hearing of this long-drawn case started in August 2013 after the Cricket Association of Bihar filed a petition in Bombay High Court against corruption in the Indian Premier League. The alleged match-fixing and betting scandal, involving the son-in-law of cricket’s strongman N Srinivasan and Raj Kundra, the businessman husband of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, slowly escalated into other serious issues that exposed how BCCI bigwigs utilised their position to outwit the law and even make financial gains.

This led to the Supreme Court to form two high-profile commissions in a bid to reform one of the world’s richest sporting bodies. Justice Mukul Mudgal’s report exposed the chinks in BCCI’s armour. Conflict of interest was the biggest disease and the lack of transparency was eating away BCCI’s credibility. Justice Lodha was brought in clean up the apparently rotting stables.

Considering the heavyweight nature of this case that the entire cricket world was watching, there were not too many headlines.

ALSO READ: Permanent membership granted to Mumbai Cricket Association

The first big impact was when the Supreme Court asked Srinivasan to step aside since his family and cement company were being probed for corruption. The court said Srinivasan was ‘clean’ but should not be in a position to influence any investigation by the law enforcing agencies.

The Lodha committee made some telling proposals. The one-state-one-vote, one-man-one-post, age cap of 70 and a three-year term followed by an identical period of cooling off did not go down well with India’s cricket administrators. Srinivasan and Sharad Pawar (Mumbai Cricket Association), two men who controlled a lion’s share of the votes across the five zones, and Saurashtra’s Niranjan Shah, had to quit the ‘game’ for being overaged.

But that did not mean they ‘retired’ from cricket administration. With front offices managed by hand-picked men, Srinivasan, in particular made his presence felt at both Tamil Nadu Cricket Association and the BCCI. He even organised ‘secret’ meetings to challenge the Lodha reforms and how to side-step them.

On January 2, 2017, a Supreme Court bench headed by then Chief Justice of India TS Thakur, sacked Board president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke for failing to implement the Lodha reforms. It was the second big heading. Last week, the BJP MP, wanted the Supreme Court to overturn his removal. Thakur, sensing his chance to return to power, was clearly emboldened by the turn of events.

It is still not sure if the new draft constitution will allow the return of Thakur. As per Thursday’s judgement, “a person shall be disqualified from being an office-bearer... if he or she is a minister or government servant or holds a public office”. The last point, holding public office is a new clause and can have far-reaching consequences. Although debatable, it can mean MPs like Thakur and MLAs like DDCA treasurer OP Sharma may no longer hold positions in Board or state bodies.

Ironically, the man who started it all, Aditya Verma, the secretary of Cricket Association of Bihar, has been left with the crumbs. While getting Srinivasan ousted was a victory of sorts, his battle to unify Bihar cricket still remains a dream. Men like Verma will be left in the shadows as the under-70 BCCI officials now gear up to win votes with renewed vigour.

First Published: Aug 09, 2018 20:06 IST