Slow progress in Supreme Court but dark clouds loom over BCCI
The Supreme Court’s surgical strike to fix cricket has gone horribly wrong and what was a T20 slog is now a timeless Test with no end in sight.
The BCCI-Supreme Court drama is the longest running entertainment serial in India’s sporting history. When the Supreme Court ruled in July 2016 on the matter, finality and closure was expected.
But a year and a half since, there are scant signs of movement let alone resolution. It is like a movie hit by a power failure causing images to freeze mid-frame.
Lack of progress causes frustration, despair and dismay. Why, ‘the nation wants to know’, can’t Supreme Court orders be implemented? Will things really change? Who is obstructing reform?
Initially, fingers pointed at the old guard with ‘vested interest’ for pulling the handbrake to stall progress. With power and patronage under threat, the establishment put spokes in the wheel of change.
Interestingly, the old guard discovered a set of allies who too were happy the current fluid arrangement continues ‘till further notice’. Not answerable to anyone, they have a free run, enjoying authority without responsibility.
Despite this frustrating delay, the game could soon shift decisively. Recent events indicate a countdown has started and the BCCI’s position is that of a batsman who goes for a review when ruled out by the on-field umpire. The soft signal is ‘out’ but a final decision is pending.
There is hope (still) that the SC will take note of the latest progress report of the CoA informing them that there is no progress. Many state units have expressed a willingness to implement the Lodha reforms but the fine print says conditions are attached. This should move the Court to push hard to get its orders obeyed.
Even if this does not happen, dark clouds are gathering over the BCCI. Financially, it faces a massive income tax liability (upwards of Rs. 1000 crore) as authorities refuse to buy the myth that the BCCI is a ‘not for profit’ organisation.
The BCCI seeking tax exemption as a charitable society is no different than Ram Rahim’s claim to be a cultural/spiritual guru.
The BCCI’s earnings are common knowledge and is difficult to argue that the IPL which generates Rs. 2000 crore profit annually is a non-commercial activity .The Kochi franchise settlement --- in excess of Rs. 1000 crore --- is another financial challenge, as the arbitrator has ruled against the BCCI.
As if this wasn’t enough, the Competition Commission of India passed severe strictures on the BCCI role and fined it Rs. 52 crore for abusing its dominant position.
Perhaps, more significant and far reaching in impact is the Law Commission’s recommendation to bring the BCCI under the RTI Act. It clearly ruled that the BCCI functions as a ‘state’ and its actions fall within the ambit of judicial review.
Faced with these multiple bouncers, the BCCI is on an uneven wicket where a nick to the keeper is only a matter of time.
(The views expressed here are personal)