For months now, the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) has made several attempts to straighten up the working of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and rein in its top bosses. But as the Board shows no sign of implementing any of the court-mandated reforms, the CoA is now going for the jugular. As the first step, it has clipped the powers of the BCCI office-bearers, and is all set to take more hard-hitting decisions.
Though the SC has still not given clear orders for holding BCCI elections—as the new BCCI constitution hasn’t been approved—CoA chairman Vinod Rai is going to act tough. In 2016, the court had approved over 95 per cent of the draft constitution submitted by the Lodha Committee to the previous bench headed by CJI Tirath Singh Thakur. The new bench agreed to hear the objections of those who were unhappy with the proposed changes.
The CoA has been frustrated at the ‘parallel administration’ that was running within the BCCI, a point it mentioned in its sixth status report. The clash of personalities reached a new flashpoint when treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry and acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary declined to sign important papers as desired by the CoA. In its seventh status report, the two-member CoA has emphasised the urgent need to hold elections to the BCCI, as the three-year tenures of the office-bearers and the vice-presidents have ‘expired’.
CoA boss Vinod Rai
Now, after failing to build consensus among the BCCI and its state units on adopting the new constitution, holding polls and adopting reforms, the CoA, which was tasked by the court to implement reforms over 14 months ago, has decided to act. To begin with, Vinod Rai has issued 12 hard-hitting directions to all in the BCCI, including the three office-bearers, whose powers he has clipped.
“Many people are interpreting it [the directions] in different ways. I’m so fed up with this entire thing; the court is not giving us dates and is going on adjourning... I wanted to wind this up by October 31, 2017, or maybe latest by December 31. But it’s going on and on. So, now, I have to start doing things because otherwise there will be a parallel administration,” Rai tells Outlook. Rai has now effectively purged the ‘parallel administration’ with his 12-point directions issued on March 15, and is keen to hold the delayed BCCI polls. But before that, he says he would give one last opportunity to the defiant state associations, who have so far tactically delayed implementing the reforms.
“As per the SC, state bodies have to pass the constitution. If not, they are not eligible to vote,” says Vinod Rai.
The case, which originated from a PIL filed by the Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB) in the Bombay High Court soon after the IPL fixing scandal broke out in May 2013, has been in the SC for almost five years. But despite the judgement being delivered in July 2016—and the review and curative petitions being subsequently dismissed—a final word on reforms is awaited. The petitioner had only sought inquiry and punishment for the guilty in the IPL fixing scandal and end to the conflict of interest of administrators. But the Supreme Court expanded the scope of the case and ordered reforms within the BCCI and its affiliates. The move was welcomed, as transparency and accountability had been badly lacking in the BCCI.
Cab secretary Aditya Verma, the original petitioner, is happy with Rai’s move. “It’s better late than never. Mr Rai’s clipping the wings of BCCI office-bearers is like Dinesh Karthik hitting a six off the last ball to win the title [Nidahas Trophy] for India the other day. We are now hopeful that he’ll implement the new constitution and reforms will finally take place,” Verma tells Outlook. Anand Jaiswal, president of Vidarbha Cricket Association, the only unit that has fully implemented the reforms, says the message right now is that one can flout the SC’s directions and get away with it. “So, strict action needs to be taken to ensure that whatever has been laid down is implemented.... We hope elections are held at the earliest so that persons who are violating the law don’t benefit,” says Jaiswal.
To implement the new Lodha Committee-drafted constitution, it is mandatory for the electorate—BCCI affiliates—to embrace reforms and amend their own constitutions as well. But 18 of the BCCI’s 31 full members have adamantly avoided doing so. Rai says only 13 associations have either changed or promised to change their constitutions. “We will give one chance to the remaining ones and then we will hold the BCCI elections, in which only those associations which have accepted the SC directions will be eligible,” he declares.
In the same breath, Rai says that if the truant associations continue to employ delaying tactics, he would hold the elections with a depleted electorate, which has never happened before. “I will do that. Let them go and object in court. As per the SC directions, state associations have to pass the new constitution. If they don’t, they are not eligible to vote. So, I will reduce the electorate of the BCCI to only those which have passed the constitution. My purpose was to try and build a consensus and take them along with us. But they are not willing, so I’ll just leave them out,” says Rai. However, as mentioned, non-complaint associations get one “last chance”—“a month or two”—to embrace the changes.
To implement the new BCCI constitution, the affiliates have to amend their rules. But 18 out of 31 have not.
In case Rai is forced to hold elections with a depleted electorate, it will be unprecedented in the 89-year history of the BCCI. His 12-point directions of March 15 are, however, not aimed at state associations. He will now issue separate directions to these associations as the ‘last warning’. After the Lodha Committee submitted the draft BCCI constitution as part of its historic report in January 2016, the court, following objections to the draft by several individuals and states, asked the CoA to collate their suggestions. The CoA presented these, along with its comments, to the court this January.
While many people have been protesting the proposed changes in the new BCCI draft constitution, only five associations (Saurashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Himachal, and Calcutta’s National Cricket Club) and four individuals—acting president C.K. Khanna, acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary, treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry and Sharad Pawar, ex-president of Mumbai—have actually given suggestions in writing. In all, they have objections on 14 counts. Interestingly, the Lodha Committee had envisaged reforms starting from the bottom of the pyramid, that is the state associations, and eventually ending with the BCCI elections. But the CoA chose to implement the reforms in the BCCI first, hoping that its affiliates will fall in line automatically.
BCCI treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry
As is well known, some top BCCI officials are refusing to carry out the reforms. Signs of recalcitrance, like acting secretary Amitabh and treasurer Anirudh not signing certain documents, as mentioned by the CoA in its status reports, fully tested his patience, says Rai. “I started off with an attempt to build consensus, and for all meetings till about September I kept the office-bearers along with us. Then they started doing things on their own. And that is when I asked for their removal,” he explains.
In almost five years, the Supreme Court has passed over 150 orders in the case, thanks to many intervention applications that have delayed a final decision. But there are still several issues that badly need clarity. Aditya Verma feels Rai should not have a problem in implementing the new constitution. “He would need just three days to implement it. And for the state associations, I would suggest installing administrators, just like they are managing the Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir and Hyderabad associations, until reforms are implemented,” he says. Well, the CoA has decided to act tough now. And if protesting officials dispossessed of power move court, it might turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the CoA, as the committee would also get an opportunity to be heard. The last hearing in the case was held on January 29. Since then, the court has not fixed the next date—one of the many reasons for Rai’s frustration.