Committee of the week

The Big Bouncer

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Its recommendations would have the BCCI take its constitution apart and start from scratch
For much of last year, even as Indian cricket appeared to undergo a propitious phase, successfully transitioning from a team led by a senior captain to an aggressive young one with convincing victories against top sides like Sri Lanka and South Africa, off the field, in the air-conditioned boardrooms of the BCCI, a growing sense of unease and trepidation was beginning to descend. What exactly was the Supreme Court- appointed Justice RM Lodha Committee going to find and recommend?

If you went by the committee’s decisions last year, of handing two year suspensions to two IPL teams and lifetime bans to its owners when everyone seemed to expect much lighter sentences, it couldn’t have made BCCI’s mandarins rest easy.

The Lodha committee spent last year scrutinising the BCCI and its processes, interviewing stakeholders, going into the constitution of the sports body, as former judge Mukul Mudgal—who headed another panel that established the wrongdoings of Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra—claimed. Meanwhile, the new BCCI dispensation sought to put its own house in order: it got rid of N Srinivasan, introduced reforms and policies to deal with conflicts of interest, and axed Indian cricket team director Ravi Shastri from the IPL governing council and Roger Binny from the group of selectors.

But none of this was going to be quite enough. The committee’s recommendations, submitted to the Supreme Court and made public a few days ago, is nothing short of a sledgehammer poised to have a go at a structure that has often found to be in need of a drastic overhaul. The recommendations are a shakeup of everything, right from the power structures and the administrative set up of the Board to the goings-on in the smallest state associations. If the apex court accepts these recommendations, it will require remaking the BCCI, casting aside what has always been its defence—that it is essentially a private body, registered as a society under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, and hence not answerable to anyone but itself.

The Lodha panel has laid down its recommendations in minute detail. Instead of the case up till now, where BCCI’s true power has often oscillated from one top politician to another, the committee insists that ministers and bureaucrats not be allowed to hold positions. It demands age limits and a restricted number of tenures, fewer elected office-bearers and no consecutive terms. The all-important president will no longer have an additional vote at meetings, nor any say in team selection. The IPL and BCCI governing bodies will be separate. Each state will have just one association and only a single vote.

According to the panel, the Board should now be brought under the purview of the Right to Information Act. There will be a Comptroller and Auditor General nominee to scrutinise the way its resources are utilised, and independent officials to look into contentious issues within the BCCI. The Working Committee, the Board’s top decision-making body, will give way to an Apex Council, which will also include representatives from the players’ community.

It is still not clear whether these suggestions will be accepted and enforced, and how BCCI’s lawyers will respond to them. By rewriting the BCCI’s constitution, the panel has asked its stakeholders why they are here at all—for cricket or the power it bestows upon them?