Cornered Indian cricket board has few options left (Column: Just Sport)
The Indian cricket board’s problems with the Rajendra Mal Lodha Committee recommendations on administrative reforms and the Cauvery river water issue are being keenly watched.
Karnataka is taking refuge behind its elected legislative assembly while the politicians in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) do not have the backing of a sports law to argue before the apex court.
The Supreme Court is livid with the board for not taking the Lodha committee’s specific instructions of carrying only routine business at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) and going ahead with the appointment of a working committee, a standing committee and a selection committee. The meeting also re-elected Ajay Shirke as the Board secretary.
The Lodha panel wanted all these appointments to be done under the new governance rules accepted by the apex court. The appointment of Anurag Thakur as director at the International Cricket Council (ICC) and Asian Cricket Council (ACC) and Sharad Pawar’s nomination as alternate director for ICC made at the September 21 AGM will be null and void.
The board has pushed itself into a corner and it is to be seen how much of the new Memorandum of Association Rules (MAR) the board will adopt on Saturday at its Special General Meeting (SGM) after its scheduled meeting on Friday was adjourned as some board members did not have the letters of authorisation from their associations.
Friday was the deadline to implement the Lodha Committee recommendations.
As if to thumb its nose at the Lodha Panel, the board appointed Justice Markandey Katju as head of its four-member legal committee and the former Supreme Court judge saw the whole exercise as “judicial legislation”.
He told The Hindu that “the Supreme Court had over-reached itself and indulged in judicial legislation unmindful of the fact that there are several larger Bench decisions prohibiting the same”.
Agreeing that their intention to clean up cricket may be good, Katju said it cannot be done throwing the law to the winds. He was as convincing in arguing the board’s case as Lodha is in overhauling the board’s governance system.
The comments by a fellow legal luminary may have infuriated the Lodha committee which, in its status report to the apex court, sought the supersession of the existing board set-up and appointing in its place a panel of administrators to ensure the smooth transition from the old system to the one recommended by Judges Ashok Bhasin and R. Raveendran, besides Lodha.
The Supreme Court, which more or less accepted the Lodha Panel report, was equally furious with the board. Chief Justice Thirath Singh Thakur, heading a three-member bench, asked whether the board thought it can violate court orders and get away with this. He made it clear that it should fall in line, failing which the Court will make it do. Strong words, indeed.
The Board, which has also filed a review petition, has been asked to explain by October 6 its non-compliance reported by the Lodha panel in its status report, but by then it would have implemented a good part of the report.
Taking heart from Justice Katju’s arguments, the thinking in the Board apparently is to push for a Sports Act that can restore some of its claims. The politicians in the Board are trying their best to get a consensus among the political parties, but not all are willing to take it as a priority issue and it is still to go to the cabinet.
Even if the Sports Act comes into force, the board can only benefit if its provisions are seen running counter to the Lodha Panel’s recommendations. There won’t be many provisions in the Act that will bail the board out.
The board itself had all along opposed coming under the Sports Act but now it is willing to look at it if it can help nullify the Lodha panel recommendations. Even the Sports Act may be of little help as it will be overarching and not specifically for cricket.
So, as things stand, there is little hope for the board unless the points raised by Katju are seriously addressed by the apex court. The review petition is usually rejected and thereafter the only course left is to go in for a curative petition.
A curative petition is as good as asking for a larger bench to address the issue and this is not all that easy.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at email@example.com)