SC bars government ministers, officials from BCCI

New Delhi, July 18 (IANS) No minister or government official can be an office-bearer of the national cricketing body, the Supreme Court said on Monday in a major setback to the BCCI while it also accepted the Lodha Committee recommendation of one state-one vote for representation at the BCCI.

Rejecting the contention that the exclusion of ministers — both at the central and state levels — from being the office bearers of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) or its state affiliates would adversely affect their administration, the bench of Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Fakkir Mohammed Ibrahim Kalifulla said this does not mean that the game would cease to get their patronage.

“The argument that since ministerial and bureaucratic support and patronage has helped the BCCI in running its affairs in the past, they should be allowed to continue, lest the game suffers, has not impressed us. We do not think that the game flourishes in this country because any minister or civil servant holds office in the state associations or the BCCI,” Chief Justice Thakur said while pronouncing the judgement.

The bench contended that ministers and bureaucrats who are passionate about the game will continue to promote it without holding any office in the BCCI or the state associations.

The apex court said this while pronouncing on the number of objections that the country’s apex cricketing body and its state affiliates have raised opposing the Justice Lodha Committee recommendations including one state one vote, ceiling on the number of terms a person could be an office bearer, age restriction of BCCI officials to 70 years and the presence of a CAG nominee on the BCCI board.

Addressing the BCCI objection to the recommendation of one state one vote, more so the contribution made by the six associations — three each in Maharashtra and Gujarat — to the game historically and by some of them even in the formation of BCCI itself, the court said that the arguments could not be “lightly brushed aside”.

The six bodies are Mumbai Cricket Association, Maharashtra Cricket Association, Vidarbha Cricket Association, Gujarat Cricket Association, Baroda cricket Association and Saurashtra Cricket Association.

“The only reasonable and rational answer to the problem within the broad principle of one state one vote would be to allow the full membership of BCCI to rotate among the three clubs on an annual basis. During the period one of the associations would exercise rights and privileges of a full member, the other two associations would act as associate members,” the court said.

This rotational arrangement, the court said would give each member a right to vote at its turn without violating the broader principle of one state one vote and also respect the “historical aspect in which these associations grew to promote the game and form BCCI as a national body.”

Saying that these associations will continue to field their respective teams, the court left it to the BCCI to decide the order in which the membership will rotate among them.

The apex court-appointed Lodha Committee, on January 4, recommended sweeping reforms and an administrative shake-up at the troubled BCCI, suggesting that ministers be barred from occupying positions, a cap put on the age and tenure of the office-bearers and legalising betting.

On the question of bringing the BCCI within the ambit of the Right to Information Act, as it discharged the public functions and Lodha Committee recommendation to legalise betting, the court asked the Law Commission to examine the two issues and make suitable recommendations.

“A three year term recommended by the Committee is, in our opinion, reasonable. So also, the prescription of cooling off period between two terms cannot be faulted. Similarly, an optimum period of nine years as a member of the apex council cannot also be termed as unreasonable,” the court added.

However, the court refused to interfere with the BCCI in respect of awarding broadcasting rights and the funding of the state associations.

Giving a deadline of four to six months starting from Monday to the BCCI to implement the changes, the court said the Justice Lodha Committee will oversee the transition.

The apex court’s verdict could affect some of the most high profile BCCI officials including current president Anurag Thakur, who also heads the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA).

Some of the other officials who could be affected are BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke, treasurer Aniruddh Chaudhary and joint secretary Amitabh Chaudhary, all of whom will now have to forego their positions in their respective state associations to avoid conflict of interest.

Former BCCI presidents Sharad Pawar and N. Srinivasan may also have to give up on their ambitions of heading the world’s richest cricket body again as both of them have surpassed the age cap of 70 years. While Pawar is 75 years old, Srinivasan is 71.

–IANS

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