After days of legal logjam, intense courtroom drama and political subplots, sanctity has been restored to the rules of the game. Cricket fans the world over have applauded Justice R.M. Lodha’s announcement of the two-year suspension of India Cements and Jaipur IPL, and the life bans on Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra, the pinning down of the villains in Indian cricket’s murkiest and highly incestuous whodunit. This is a moment of closure that could help reinstate cricket’s credibility. Who would have thought that the suspension of the IPL’s two most-supported, most-successful teams would prove to be a popular decision with far-reaching implications. The Lodha committee has set a precedent. In days to come, franchise owners will be more selective in making friends, and wary about proximity to shady syndicates.
However, the legal luminaries in the SC-appointed committee — the former chief justice of India, Justice Lodha, and SC judges Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice R.V. Raveendram — weren’t in the mood to be seen as superheroes in black capes, who saved the country’s most-loved game. Instead, they underplayed their role by conveying that they had merely picked the long-neglected rule books from the BCCI shelf, dusted the cobwebs off them and read them back to the game’s stakeholders, who dragged their feet when it came to chasing down their erring colleagues or family and friends. The “BCCI has to give an important place to the disciplinary role (this role is being discharged by this committee in the present matter as mandated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court) so that the purity of game remains a central element. We feel that our decision must reflect a kind of institutionally firm view for upholding the paramountcy of the game,” said Lodha.
It’s a line Justices T.S. Thakur and Fakkir Mohamed Kalifulla, while hearing the case in the Supreme Court, had maintained. “We do not consider it proper to clutch at the jurisdiction of the BCCI. At the same time, we do not think that in a matter like this the award of a suitable punishment to those liable for such punishment can be left to the BCCI,” the judgment had said. By basing the quantum of punishment solely on the codes and rules of the BCCI, the Lodha panel has held up a mirror to cricket. The tight group that has historically rallied around its own has been told that rules shouldn’t just be followed in letter, but in spirit, too. This is a reminder that checks and balances do exist, but motivated overwriting or selective punishment can defeat the most complete constitution. The BCCI has got a public shouting for ignoring cricket’s inner voice.