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A Question Of Ethics! Indian Cricket's Fight Against Conflict Of Interest Leaves Stars On Sticky Wicket

Board of Control for Cricket in India's ombudsman-cum-ethics officer Justice DK Jain is taking allegations of conflict of interest against Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar quite seriously. Many wonder why they are wearing multiple hats

A Question Of Ethics! Indian Cricket's Fight Against Conflict Of Interest Leaves Stars On Sticky Wicket
Sourav Ganguly, seen here as DC advisor, is under the scanner for his three roles
A Question Of Ethics! Indian Cricket's Fight Against Conflict Of Interest Leaves Stars On Sticky Wicket
outlookindia.com
2019-04-27T12:41:56+0530

The tangled web of institutions and firms that service and comprise the Indian cricket establishment has again thrown up instances of unethical involvement. Taking advantage of an absence of rules to check blatant conflict of interest by cricketers, administrators, and match-officials, people in power in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have conveniently, and repeatedly, ignored such transgressions. That enabled some to abuse the system without the fear of accountability and punishment. Then came the 2013 IPL betting-fixing scandal. A blessing in disguise in some ways, its one positive was that it led to administrative and governance reforms that would check conflict of interest that has sent deep roots within Indian cricket administration.

After the Supreme Court accepted the Lodha Committee recommendations and incorporated them into the new BCCI constitution last year, some well-known personalities have come under the scanner. These days, former India captain Sourav Ganguly is in the news after a complaint was lodged against him for his allegedly conflicting roles—as president of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), member of the BCCI’s Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC), and advisor to the IPL franchise Delhi Capitals.

Earlier, Ganguly was chairman of the BCCI technical committee and member of the IPL technical committee as well as the IPL governing council, before he either resigned or the BCCI’s Committee of Administrators (CoA) dissolved all the committees. He, however, remains CAB president and is advisor to Delhi Capitals. In his def­ence, Ganguly has stressed that since he was doing an “honorary” job for the Capitals, he couldn’t be deemed to be in the conflict zone.

Ganguly clarified his position in a letter add­ressed to new BCCI ombudsman-cum-ethics off­icer D.K. Jain, a former Supreme Court judge. Ganguly and the three complainants from Calcutta had appeared before him too. The verdict, said Jain, would come soon. “I’ve heard both parties as well as the BCCI, and will soon give my order. However, since the hearing is over, as per principles of natural justice, both parties can give their written submissions before the final order is pronounced,” he announced.

Some people, like former CJI Rajendra Mal Lodha, don’t agree with the ‘honorary’ tag that sports administrators bandy about as a shield. “Honorary? What honorary? One may be com­pensated in diverse ways. Look at how much all­owances they [BCCI administrators] get. It’s not the monthly salary that you can say ‘I’m not a salaried person’. The main thing to give effect to reforms is willpower. Two years have been lost [since SC judgment], and I don’t know when the final day will come,” Lodha tells Outlook.

A BCCI insider explains the “compensated in diverse ways” bit. “This ‘honorary’ business is a huge misnomer. BCCI office-bearers are also called ‘honorary’, but receive $750 a day while traveling abroad and about Rs 20,000 in india, besides the five-star hospitality they enjoy everywhere. There are 100 ways to compensate an honorary worker—in a different way, in a different account and at a different place,” he said.

 Some of the biggest names in Indian cricket have faced conflict-of-interest allegations. They include former BCCI presidents Sharad Pawar, Inderjit Singh Bindra, and N. Srinivasan and stars Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Ganguly, M.S. Dhoni, V.V.S. Laxman, and Harbhajan Singh etc. Some of these were mentioned in complaints lodged with the BCCI’s first Ombudsman A.P. Shah, a retired chief justice of the Delhi High Court, who was appointed in November 2016. Some of them pulled themselves out of the zone of conflict as advised, while the other cases died a natural death as a weak BCCI turned a blind eye.

Interestingly, of 38 cases Justice Shah disposed of during his one-year term was over, a majority of individuals received a slap on their wrists. Some, like former India cricketer Pravin Amre, did what he was asked to do: pick eit­her the coach’s role of IPL franchise Delhi Daredevils or the member’s post of Mumbai Cricket Association managing committee. Amre chose the coaching job.

Justice Shah explains the rationale. “There’s no strait-jacketed formula, no universal rule for conflict of interest. You have to ascertain in each case whether the person occupying two positions constitutes a potential conflict of interest. Also, you must distinguish between conflict of interest and code of conduct,” he tells Outlook.

Of the ‘conflicted’ cricketers, Tendulkar, Ganguly, and Laxman are also part of the BCCI’s CAC, about which there is widespread confusion. CoA chairman Vinod Rai sets the record straight. “Technically, the CAC exists, because changing it would mean going to the AGM as it is the BCCI general body that app­oints it. The selection committees are also continuing for the same reason. But, unfortunately, like other committees, there’s neither a contract nor an exchange of letters for the CAC members. That’s why they [its members] won’t be able to say whether or not they are existing. They are also not paid. We had asked them last year, but they opted not to receive anything,” Rai tells Outlook.

Tendulkar and Laxman too are involved with IPL franchises, as ‘icon’ with Mumbai Indians and ‘mentor’ with SunRisers Hyderabad res­pectively. Laxman is also commentating on the IPL matches when his team is not involved. The complaints against them are lying with Justice Jain.

Unfortunately, after Justice Shah’s term was over and after he delivered his last order in August 2016, the BCCI remained without an ombudsman for four years, as there was no BCCI annual general body meeting at which he is app­ointed. BCCI sans an ombudsman suited some people within it perfectly, and those outside it at whom fingers were being pointed.

Since the appointment of the ombudsman this February, many complaints have been lodged with him. Indore-based Sanjeev Gupta, a life member of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association, has probably filed the maximum complaints. “I’ve filed 22 applications in which I’ve pointed out conflict cases against 94 individuals, including Ganguly, Tendulkar, Lax­man and many players and officials at the state association level. No issue has been res­olved so far, though,” says Gupta.

The conflict of interest regulation is spelt out in Rule 38(4) in the new, Supreme Court-approved BCCI constitution. This rule stipulates that no person can simultaneously hold two of the 16 posts listed there. These are: player (current); selector/member of cricket committee; team official; commentator; match official; administrator/office-bearer; electoral officer; ombudsman & ethics officer; auditor; any person who is in governance; management or employment of a franchisee; member of a standing committee; CEO & managers; off­ice-bearer of a member; service provider (legal, financial, etc.); contractual entity (broadcast, security, contractor, etc.) and owner of a cricket academy.

Now, it all depends on how the rules are app­lied. “If they are implemented in letter and spirit—more in spirit—then resolution would be very easy. The law may be there but all dep­ends on its implementation and execution—how honestly and purposefully you do, and how you intend to achieve the objective under those rules,” says Lodha. It has been a long time since the SC ordered reforms. When will they be put to use? That question begs an urgent answer.

***

Players In Different Fields

Harbhajan Singh
Cricketer

Allegations: His apparel company, Bhajji Sports, sponsored/was to sponsor Ranji teams while he was still playing

Verdict: Let off after he informed the firm belonged to his mother, was launched before he signed BCCI’s annual contract


M.S. Dhoni
Cricketer

Allegations: Being brand ambassador of‘Seven’, launched by Rhiti Sports that managed him, clashed with BCCI sponsor Nike

Verdict: Not a fit case for taking action against Dhoni as neither BCCI nor Nike had complained


Dilip Vengsarkar And Pravin Amre

Allegations: Holding BCCI/NCA/Mumbai Cricket Association/IPL posts while running cricket academies

Verdict: Vengsarkar let off as his NCA role was ‘honorary’; Amre found conflicted, told to choose between MCA and DD coach role


Vikram Rathour
National selector

Allegations: Was  member of the national senior selection committee while being a UK citizen and holding the Overseas Citizen of India card

Verdict: Complaint disposed of due to absence of any rule in the BCCI constitution on the issue


Sharad Pawar and Inderjit Singh Bindra
Ex-presidents, BCCI

Allegations: Pawar’s son-in-law and Bindra’s son were employees of firms with which BCCI had dealings

Verdict: Charges dismissed as events were retrospective

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