While its own coaching and support staff wait for the remuneration due to them, the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) has, over the last four months, paid Rs 1.63 crore to its lawyers, standing counsel and ombudsman. This unusually high legal expenditure is because of the regular internal disputes in the capital’s faction-ridden cricket body. In some cases, the state association has ended up footing the legal bill of both the DDCA groups involved in a court battle. One particular lawyer has been paid Rs 45 lakh since November.
This is in contrast to the situation of the coaches, other support staff and selectors, who have only received promises of payment, at a time when they are dealing with the COVID-19-triggered economic slump.
Delhi men’s team coach KP Bhaskar is to receive Rs 24 lakh, while bowling coach Raj Kumar Sharma has a contract of Rs 20 lakh. Atul Wassan, who was the chief selector till December, confirmed that he hasn’t received a penny yet. “I was told I would be paid 60 per cent of the amount due to me but till date I have not received any money from the DDCA,” Wassan said.
A support staff member of the state team has been waiting for his payment, the first installment of which was to be paid in November, followed by ones in December and February. “I am yet to receive even a single rupee. I have asked the DDCA about the delay. They have been promising to pay me. It is April now and nobody is responding. According to my contract, I should have got the full amount by the end of February,” the coach said.
He is feeling the pinch this month as his employers — he has a day job — have delayed salaries because of the lockdown.
Those left in the lurch also include masseurs, trainers, physiotherapists and team managers of senior and age-group teams fielded in various competitions.
However, the legal bills, running into a fortune, have been regularly paid.
The fees of DDCA ombudsman Justice (retired) Deepak Verma, the man who looks into complaints, has accounted for nearly one-fourth of the legal bill. Since being appointed in late December, he has cost the DDCA Rs 37.62 lakh.
DDCA joint secretary Rajan Manchanda says the legal bills have been high since November because members are filing cases at the drop of a hat and also hiring top lawyers for petty matters.
“When certain procedures followed during the annual general body meeting of the DDCA were challenged in court, president Rakesh Bansal and secretary Vinod Tihara used the services of two senior lawyers to represent them in the High Court. The total bill raised by these two lawyers was Rs 41 lakh,” Manchanda said.
“I have repeatedly asked the accounts department to furnish details of who paid these two senior lawyers but have got no reply. The previous ombudsman charged the DDCA Rs 27 lakh for the whole year. Why have the fees of the ombudsman been much higher for a period of just three months?”
When contacted, Justice Verma said he was only raising bills as per the terms and conditions offered by the DDCA at the time of his appointment.
“As far as my bills are concerned, it is the DDCA which has offered me this. DDCA itself said you will be paid Rs 5 lakh per month as retainer fee and about Rs 6.5 lakh per hearing. A hearing takes about two hours.
But I have not charged DDCA for every hearing, only for those which take up a good amount of my time. My time is also money,” Justice Verma said. “Since I took over, there have been five or six hearings. I have not charged for all of them.”
DDCA member and former India all-rounder Kirti Azad raised the matter of legal costs going through the roof in a letter to BCCI ombudsman Justice (retired) DK Jain.
“The fact that DDCA employs a whole band of lawyers is ample proof of their priorities. Despite having an Ombudsman, people are running to various courts — lower as well as High Court — to get matters heard. I fail to understand why an Ombudsman’s office was necessary if everything was still to be decided in courts. As we have seen in Delhi, it was a time-tested tactic employed by DDCA office-bearers to engage detractors in lengthy and expensive court procedures. Since there never was any accountability, the management could waste time as well as DDCA’s money, on ‘friendly’ lawyers,” Azad wrote.
As far as delay in payments to coaching and support staff is concerned, Manchanda said that he had cleared cheques for payment but these have not been forwarded to those who have to be paid.
“I have not been able to follow up on why the support staff and coach were not paid as I have been kept in the dark,” the joint secretary said. The feud within the state cricket association has only got messier after the ombudsman debarred four officials, including Manchanda, from engaging in any ‘administerial’ or ‘financial’ work on Wednesday, after they claimed that the Apex Council had terminated the contract of DDCA standing counsel and legal advisor Gautam Datta.
The ombudsman’s order stated that Manchanda ‘has failed to produce as to how such a majority has been achieved because Apex Council consists of 10 members and whether the rest of the six members approved the said resolution is not known.’