It is disconcerting that the administrative affairs of Indian cricket should continue to be embroiled in controversy in the midst of a packed and interesting home season. Not many can complain about the manner in which cricketing matters are being managed, but the intransigence shown by the office-bearers of the Board of Control for Cricket in India in not constructively accepting the reforms recommended by the Supreme Court-appointed R.M. Lodha Committee is getting to be tiresome. These recommendations, including those barring ministers, bureaucrats and anyone above the age of 70 from holding office in cricket’s administrative body, are now binding on the BCCI after the Supreme Court accepted the report.
The Justice Lodha Committee has been grappling with a set of reluctant office-bearers who claim they cannot force the State units affiliated to the BCCI to accept all the norms. Some associations are said to be unwilling to accept the age ceiling and the one-State, one-vote norm. In its latest report, the Committee has asked for the removal of all those who fall foul of its bar on various grounds. In addition, it has asked for an observer to be appointed to ‘guide’ the Chief Executive Officer in running the BCCI, particularly with regard to contracts, transparency norms and the audit of domestic, international and IPL matches.
The question arises whether the Lodha Committee should have named G.K. Pillai, a former Union Home Secretary, as the observer. As it is up to the Supreme Court to decide whether an observer is needed, the recommendation of a specific name was both unnecessary and puzzling. While the time may have come to enforce the norms accepted by the Supreme Court, any suggestion that the Committee favours drastic action rather than appealing to reason should be avoided. It is apparent that some unsavoury developments have upset the panel.
These include the BCCI taking decisions out of sync with the panel’s recommendations at its Annual General Meeting in September, interpreting a directive to stop the disbursal of funds to State associations as the demand for a total freeze on its bank accounts, and allegedly trying to goad the International Cricket Council into raising the question whether there was governmental interference in the BCCI’s functioning, a situation that may come with the threat of derecognition. Yet, the situation is not beyond rescue. The Board’s president and secretary have until December 3 to report compliance with the Committee’s norms. While the BCCI leadership will have to shed its seeming reluctance, the Supreme Court has to find a way to bring in transparency and reform without resorting to heavy-handed action against a body that must function with a measure of autonomy.