In the next six months, a lot will change about the way cricket is run in India. With the Supreme Court Monday accepting all major recommendations of the Lodha panel, a spate of structural changes — including replacing the old guard — is set to dawn on the BCCI.
The three most important recommendations accepted by the bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice FMI Kalifulla, which would change the power dynamics in the BCCI, are one state-one vote, one person-one post and a 70-year age limit for office bearers. This could mean that veterans such as Sharad Pawar, N Srinivasan and Niranjan Shah are out of the game.
The three member panel was headed by former Chief Justice of India R M Lodha.
Ordering that every state in the country will now have one vote each in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the court held that the Lodha panel’s recommendation “is unexceptionable, nor should there 1 vote per state, 70 age limit: SC okays BCCI overhaul be any compromise with what is proposed as a reformative measure”.
The bench rejected the board’s argument that equal representation to each state was likely to result in a situation where states with little or no cricketing activity will abuse their voting rights.
As a result of the court order, while the seven Northeast states will now get one vote each, traditional heavyweights such as Maharashtra and Gujarat, which had three associations each, will lose out. The bench allowed these two states to continue with multiple associations, but said only one association each, on a rotational basis, will have a voting right in a particular year.
The one person-one post recommendation cleared by the court mandates an office bearer to choose between the BCCI and state associations.
“There is nothing irrational about the view taken by the committee. The argument that individuals should be eligible to hold two posts — one each in the state association and the BCCI — does not stand scrutiny…,” held the bench, underscoring the panel’s concerns that holding dual posts was a conflict of interest.
The apex court also ruled that Lodha panel had rightly fixed 70 as the upper age limit for holding a post in the BCCI. It shot down the BCCI’s contention that many persons continued to contribute to the development and promotion of cricket despite their advanced age. It further said that cricket players usually retire at around 35 and have sufficient time to devote themselves to the welfare of the game afterwards.
The bench also held that ministers and civil servants are disqualified from holding any office in the state associations or the BCCI, stating that those who are passionate about the game would still do “everything that is legally permissible and reasonably possible within the four corners of the law”.
The court directed that an office bearer can have a maximum three-year term at a stretch followed by a cooling off period, and cannot serve more than a total of nine years. Two members in the BCCI apex council will be nominees of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), who “would act as conscience keepers of the state association and BCCI in financial matters”, the court said.
The bench set a deadline of six months for the BCCI’s transition “from the old to the new system” and requested the Lodha panel to oversee and supervise the reforms.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Justice Lodha expressed satisfaction that all major recommendations were accepted by the court. “I think it is good news for cricket and cricket fans. This should reform the BCCI. I think it should not be difficult to bring about these changes now,” he said.
About the panel’s recommendations to bring the BCCI within the fold of the RTI and to legalise betting, the court said it is for the government and the legislature to take a call on these subjects.
It further left it to the BCCI to examine broadcasting contracts and mull possible changes to ensure excessive commercial advertisements do not deprive viewers of the pleasure of watching the game. The bench also allowed formation of players’ associations while adding that BCCI may examine the extent of funds it could provide to such associations.
One issue that the bench sent back to the panel related to the reconstitution of the IPL Governing Council in a way that it comprises three ex-officio members of the BCCI. The bench said that if the panel reiterated this recommendation after taking a view that induction of the nominees of the franchisees will not result in any conflict of interest, the BCCI will have to implement it.