New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India on Monday pulled up Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for "monopolizing" cricket in the country and said several youngsters wanting to be Dhonis and Kohlis are not given equal opportunity if they are not on the right side of the cricket body.
"Several youngsters in the country want to make their career in cricket and want to be Dhonis and Kohlis due to the glamour and glitz associated with it. They do not get equal opportunity if they are not on the right side of the BCCI. Sometimes they are prevented by the people at the helm of affairs," a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said.
The apex court also appointed senior advocate Gopal Subramanium as amicus curiae in the matter and sought his assistance to explore as to how the recomendations of Justice R M Lodha committee favouring large-scale structural reforms, which BCCI and other boards have been resisting, could be implemented.
The bench, also comprising Justice FMI Kalifulla, expressed anquish over the cricket body running a "prohibitory regime and monopolizing cricket" across the country, saying no one can play the game without its nod.
"You (BCCI) are running a prohibitory regime which is spread across the country. If a player has to play cricket he has to be with you. You have complete monopoly. You have monopoly over members and you prevent people from becoming members.
"Suppose a state from North East wants to be a member in BCCI. You are not allowing it to become a member because your writ lies there also. You don't want to give them equal opportunity. You have complete monopoly over Team India because you select them and don't want to give the right to anyone else. We need to balance things," the bench said.
The court said it fails to understand why there should be any problem to anyone because Justice RM Lodha-led committee has opened the membership to other states and recommended one state-one vote.
The bench made it clear to Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA), which has expressed its reservations to one state-one vote formula, that it is not concerned with any state associations.
"We make it clear that we are not concerned with any state cricket associations but if they want to associate with BCCI, then they have to reform themselves. You will have to fall in line and reform yourselves or you will lose your membership," the bench said.
Senior advocate Arvind Dattar, appearing for TNCA, said the recommendation of one state-one vote will create inequality rather than equality.
"The recommendations will create inequality rather than equality. It will promote inequality among equals," he said.
The bench then said when one country, irrespective of its population, constitutes one vote in International Cricket Council (ICC), then why cannot the formula work for BCCI.
"When ICC accepts the principle of one country-one vote irrespective of population, then why can't the similar formula of one state-one vote work for BCCI. It will result in equality to play cricket," the bench said.
It further said the apex court has already held that if any body or association is discharging public function, then it has some responsibilities and obligations and equal opportunity needs to be given to all.
At the outset, the bench also pulled up Baroda Cricket Association which has opposed the reforms recommended by the Lodha panel, saying any cricketing body associated with the BCCI will have to reform itself.
"If any cricket club or association wants to do anything, we are least bothered. We are not here to reform every cricketing club. But if any institution which is discharging public duty like BCCI, then any organization or association associated with it will have to reform itself," the court said.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Baroda Cricket Association, said reforms suggested by the Lodha panel are not under constitutional principle and may or may not be implemented by the BCCI, but state associations, which have their own set of rules, cannot implement them.
"Every association has its own set of rules and bye laws which can't be changed. Do we all who constitute BCCI have to change our laws, it can't be," Sibal said, adding that if the cricket board does something wrong, it could be held accountable but not the associations.
He said there cannot be uniform rules and regulations as there may be problems in following them owing to different members having different compositions, laws and bye-laws.
Sibal said the BCCI selection committee consists of five members from five zones and they select players from different zones without any favourtism.
"Even in present structure in BCCI, equal representation is given to all the zones. There is nothing like undue or undemocratic (favour)," he said.
The Baroda Cricket Association had earlier told the apex court that the Lodha panel's recommendation of one state-one vote would lead to "enormous politics" and pressure within the system of the apex cricket body.
The implementation of one-state, one-vote formula would impact Maharashtra and Gujarat, which have four and three cricket associations respectively as permanent members. If it is implemented the two states will be left with only one permanent member each in the BCCI.
The new permanent members will come from smaller states where cricket is not a popular sport like Manipur and Mizoram.
The apex court had on 13 April observed that public functions relating to cricket can be taken over by the government with the enactment of a law in Parliament.
The prestigious Cricket Club of India (CCI) of Mumbai had also faced some tough questions from the court regarding its resistance to structural reforms with the bench saying the purpose of implementing them was to clean up the system and make the Board more transparent, objective, accountable and representative.