In what may be beginning of a deluge of litigation in Indian cricket over questions of public law, the Rajasthan High Court has set forth to examine a question of “bias” in the selection of team for Ranji Trophy competition this year.
Incidentally, the High Court admitted a writ petition by Rajasthan’s first class cricketer Nikhil Doru on a day when the Supreme Court delivered its judgement, holding that the BCCI was amenable to judicial review and that it could be taken to a court of law on issues of public interest.
The Supreme Court verdict broadened the scope of scrutiny of actions by the BCCI, leaving it open to virtually anyone interested in the game and its management to question the top cricketing body.
The apex court said BCCI had to be legally compliant under Article 226 whereby a writ petition can be filed in a high court against its actions and the degree of scrutiny would be as good as that for any government institution.
Therefore, what can now be raised before a high court is not only technical issues relating to age or other qualification of a player, but also questions of bias, prejudice, nepotism, sabotage, conspiracy, inequality, arbitrariness and all such public law issues.
On January 22, while everyone was anxiously waiting for a judgement on the BCCI and fate of its ousted chief N Srinivasan in the Supreme Court, the Rajasthan High Court took the lead when it agreed to examine if Doru was subjected to a bias and he was unfairly treated in the selection process. Doru claimed it was a tiff between Doru and members of Udaipur Cricket Association in 2012 that led to the prejudice against him.
The High Court relied on a 2005 judgment by the Supreme Court while sending notices to officials from Rajasthan Cricket Association, Udaipur District Cricket Association and the state’s senior selection committee over the squad picked to represent the unit in the Ranji Trophy competition this season.
Doru’s lawyer asserted that if anybody wants to pay for the BCCI, the hierarchy starts from the district level. Since it is the only route to fulfill the ambition to be selected in the national team, Doru said, every level in this hierarchy requires to be amenable to judicial review.
His petition cited the 2005 judgement by a constitution bench of the Supreme Court which had by majority held that although the BCCI was a private and autonomous body, it was amenable to judicial review.
The BCCI fears the stand taken by the courts will see an increase in cricketing litigations around the country. A senior board member speaking to The Indian Express said, “For years now we have been arguing that we are autonomous and independent body now we will be under public law. Now, every association and the board will have to fight court cases on selection or any appointment. Like was the case with Rajasthan Cricket Association, more cases of such kind will be filed in coming days. Earlier, we had cases for elections and for administrative purpose, now we don’t which new kind of cases will pop up.”
Interestingly, a bench of Justices TS Thakur and FMI Kalifulla also referred to the 2005 verdict while pronouncing its judgement on January 22 and widened the ambit of BCCI’s scrutiny by relying on the seminal principle evolved in the decade old case.
The High Court will take up Doru’s petition after two weeks now and the apex court verdict will certainly come handy to his lawyers. This may also become the first case where a selection process is judicially examined by a court in view of the strict principles of legal scrutiny now laid down by the Supreme Court.