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Supreme Court Dilutes Cooling-Off Period For Cricket Administrators

Scraps one of the two three-year breaks in a max of nine-year tenure proposed by Lodha Committee. Railways & Services retained as full BCCI members but only players to represent them, not govt officials.

Supreme Court Dilutes Cooling-Off Period For Cricket Administrators
Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)
Supreme Court Dilutes Cooling-Off Period For Cricket Administrators

As anticipated in certain sections of Indian cricketing circles, the Supreme Court on Thursday diluted some of the crucial Lodha Committee recommendations, giving relief to those who have been particularly opposing a mandatory three-year cooling-off period after completion of every three-year tenure as an office-bearer, both at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and its affiliates. The maximum total tenure of an administrators remains nine years each at the BCCI and its affiliates.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra, mentioned this in a 35-page judgment in a long-drawn case between the unrecognised Cricket Association of Bihar and the BCCI that started with the IPL betting-fixing issue in 2013. Later, the CJI TS Thakur-headed bench expanded the scope of the case and ordered reforms in Indian cricket administration.

In the draft BCCI constitution it forwarded along with its report, the Lodha Committee had recommended that an office-bearer could remain in chair for a maximum of nine years each in the BCCI and in any one of its affiliates, with each three-year term being interspersed by a three-year cooling-off break. Later, after appointing a Committee of Administrators (COA) the Supreme Court asked it to rejig the draft constitution by taking suggestions from all stakeholders in BCCI/affiliates. Many individuals/affiliates opposed the cooling-off period and sought an uninterrupted nine-year term. The judgment also clarified that during the three-break cooling-off periods, an official cannot hold any post anywhere, and cannot even migrate to another affiliate. 

The cooling off period, as per the judgment, shall read: “An office bearer who has held any post for two consecutive terms either in a state association or in the BCCI (or a combination of both) shall not be eligible to contest any further election without completing a cooling off period of three years. During the cooling off period, such an office bearer shall not be a member of the governing council or of any committee whatsoever of the BCCI or of a state association.”

The cooling-off stipulation was one of the few Lodha Committee recommendations that was most intensely opposed by those officials of the BCCI/affiliates who don’t want to leave the cricket administration that has a lot of glamour and other incentives attached to it. Their common and consistent argument has been that they need “continuity of service” to serve Indian cricket better. Different people are interpreting this argument in different ways, not necessarily in positive terms. 

For the moment, some people like Anand Jaiswal, president of the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA), the only BCCI affiliate that has fully implemented the Lodha Committee recommendations, are “relieved” that the uncertainty over many issues has been removed. “I think it’s a very good step by the Supreme Court [to retain VCA and some other associations as full members]. The BCCI full members, like us, have contributed a lot to Indian cricket. It would have been unfair had we been excluded as a full member. Now we will continue to work with full vigour,” Jaiswal told Outlook.

However, some others were not amused. “I am not really [happy] with whatever I have seen in news. Six years non-stop as an office-bearer is a major compromise of the recommendations,” said an activist with one of the associations relegated to associate membership of the BCCI.

The other significant amendment of the Lodha Committee recommendation was about the status of the BCCI full members the Railways, the Services, the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), the Vidarbha Cricket Association, the Mumbai Cricket Association, the Saurashtra Cricket Association, the Baroda Cricket Association, the Cricket Club of India (CCI) of Mumbai and the Kolkata-based National Cricket Club (NCC). The Lodha panel had recommended that they all be relegated to the associate membership. But the bench only removed CCI and NCC as full members, relegating them to the associate status.

The judgment importantly said that representatives of the Railways, the Services, the AIU to the BCCI meetings would now not be government officials but representatives of the respective players’ associations, which do not exist at the moment. This stipulation has thrown the three bodies in a predicament, and these associations hinted that they might appeal to the Supreme Court, either together or separately.

RM Lodha Committee, a former CJI, was okay with this player-only stipulation, but he was not happy with the dilution of the cooling-off periods and other watering down of other recommendations.

The reasons for the keenness to be a full member of the BCCI are not far to seek. A full member not only gets to vote on crucial issues, but also receives every year multi-crore of rupees as funds under various heads, like the IPL subvention, share from the sale of the media rights – of both bilateral home series as well as the IPL – and Rs.70 crore as infrastructure subsidy for constructing stadiums etc.  

Amongst the others changes were the retention of five-member selection committees. The Lodha Committee had recommended three-member committees. The bench, however, upheld the important recommendation of ministers and government servants being from becoming an office-bearer, or a member of the governing council, or any committee, or representing BCCI at the International Cricket Council etc.

All the BCCI affiliates will have to amend their existing constitutions according to the Supreme Court-approved BCCI constitution and submit them within a stipulated period, as decided by the court.

“The Registrar of Societies under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975 shall upon the presentation of the said Constitution by the CEO, register the documents forthwith and report compliance by way of a report to the Secretary General of this Court within four weeks,” read the judgment. “Upon the registration of the said Constitution of BCCI, each of the members shall undertake registration of their respective Constitutions on similar lines within a period of 30 days thereafter. A compliance certificate must be furnished to the COA, which shall file a status report before this Court with reference to the compliance undertaken by the State Associations; and, in the event that any State Association does not undertake compliance with the above said directions, the directions contained in the orders of this Court dated 7 October 2016 and 21 October 2016 shall revive.”

The bench also said that the COA was at liberty to submit a further report for such future directions as may be warranted and to secure compliance of the judgment.

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