On Wednesday, the Supreme Court made it clear that it will not be hoodwinked by the BCCI over the Lodha Committee report.
“We, the Supreme Court, will decide whether we are inclined to send it back. This may be the easiest way to filibuster or prolong the reforms.”
The apex court also pointed out that Indian cricket board does not have an inalienable right to make money.
“Are you considering the viewer’s right to enjoy the game in low priority than your right to earn revenue? The prominent spirit should be the viewer’s enjoyment,” the Supreme Court observed.
The BCCI is a non-profit body, which is to say making money is not its raison d'être despite the board’s pride in its commercial clout and dominance of the market. Decisions therefore should ideally be based not on monetary concerns, the country’s highest court has indicated.
It was also heartening to see the Supreme Court calling out the hypocrisy in BCCI’s opposition to having on board a nominee of the Comptroller and Auditor General on grounds of political interference while at the same time arguing that ministers should be able to hold office.
The Supreme Court also appeared likely to grant Kirti Azad, Bishan Bedi and NCT Cricket Association, who are fighting alleged corruption in the DDCA, the opportunity to intervene at the next hearing on 18 March, 2016.
In an email, Azad said “We fully support all the recommendations of Lodha Committee and will apprise the Hon Supreme Court about how BCCI and many state units have become unaccountable to the laws of the land and to the cricket loving public and what needs to be done to streamline the functioning of BCCI and the state units.”
Yet, despite the seemingly damning developments, the door is not yet fully shut for the BCCI to get some of the proposals overturned or tweaked and delay reforms further.
The apex court indicated it would take a look at the board’s objections and if it could not decide the on the issues, would “refer it to the committee on very limited points, that too after fixing a deadline to submit the supplementary report”.
To be fair to the board, some of the proposals could be problematic -- such as the restriction on advertising and the issue of continuity of terms for officials.
There’s no doubt that the quality of live cricket broadcasting in India leaves quite a few things to be desired. In a recent Asia Cup game, the broadcaster cut to ads when a wicket fell on the fifth ball of the over and returned to beam it only in the next over, forcing the viewers to missed the final ball. But equally, slicing ad time drastically would harm the revenue bottomline.
Delaying the reforms, however, is to the BCCI’s advantage. The longer it can draw out this process, the better.
Chief Justice Thakur, who has been the outspoken champion for reforms, retires in January 2017. That’s only 10 months away and 10 months is not a long time when it comes to India’s judicial system.
This case was originally filed in 2013 and had nothing to do with reforming the BCCI but had challenged the board’s probe of the allegations against former Chennai Super Kings official Gurunath Meiyappan and Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra that ended up exonerating both men.
Back then nobody, least of all the board, expected we would wind up here two and a half years later. Whether Justice Thakur’s successor will see things the same way if the case still hasn’t been settled by next January is by no means certain.
On the other hand, knowing he is due to retire, Justice Thakur could ensure this case is done and dusted before he steps down from the bench.
The BCCI’s mandarins are bound to fight the reforms every step of the way. Their very survival depends on it. How quickly the Supreme Court deals with the objections will determine how successful the board’s tactics will be.