Supreme Court's ruling on cooling-off period, one-state-one-vote welcome, but ambiguity mars most clauses

While the decision to grant voting rights to Railways, Services and Universities must be appreciated, Court's guidelines regarding the representatives of these units are likely to create practical problems within them.

Vedam Jaishankar, August 10, 2018

The Supreme Court’s ruling on BCCI’s adherence to the Lodha reforms contained a stunner: “...once the draft constitution has been approved by this Court, any amendment should not be given effect to without the leave of this Court.”

This, in all probability, shuts the door to a timely amendment to any clause in the Board or its affiliated units’ constitution. Ordinarily, amendments are made when unforeseen issues crop up from time to time. Surely it is inconceivable that 37 affiliated units besides the Board will have no issues for all time to come. What happens then? Won’t it be a Herculean task to get the amendments passed within a reasonable span of time at “an SGM with 75 per cent present and entitled to vote” and then get it ratified by the Supreme Court even as those opposed to the specific change staunchly contest it? Who knows, by the time the amendment goes through the whole process the issue might well be pointless.

Representational image. AFP.

Representational image. AFP.

Maybe amendments could have been left to the wisdom of an overwhelming majority of the affiliated units or members rather than run it past an extremely busy Supreme Court all over again.

Another ruling a bit difficult to grasp is the one regarding representatives of Railways, Services and Universities. The three were not designated as voting members by the Lodha reforms, but were reinstated by the Court, albeit with certain conditions.

The apex court agreed with the amicus curiae that Railways Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) had to be a part of the BCCI set-up. The court took notice of the fact that Railways encouraged 29 sports disciplines, gave enormous employment opportunities to cricketers and had promoted the game in multiple ways and was thus deserving of being a full member of the BCCI.

However its ruling that Railways’ representative “shall be a former cricketer from the Indian Railways who is elected by an association of former players from the Indian Railways and not a person nominated by the Government/Railway Sports Promotion Board” seems certain to promote rival power structures within the RSPB.

Would the ex-cricketer have sufficient control say over Railways’ cricket grounds, budget and ground staff? Can he discipline staff without running into internal hierarchical issues? Unlikely. In all probability, sooner than later, there would be issues cropping up between the many personalities involved in this government-controlled set-up.

The Court has also accorded voting rights to Services and Universities with the same set of conditions. While the Services representative would be dogged by the same issues as the Railways person, the Universities representative would be an interesting one.

The Court ruled that “the representative for Association of Indian Universities shall be a former cricketer who has played for it and is elected by an association of former players and not a person nominated by the government/ sports control board.”

The last time Indian Universities played a first-class match was in 1975 against the visiting Sri Lankan team (the 1994-95 match against an England 'A' was not accorded first-class status). In all, Indian Universities have played just 16 first-class matches between 1949 and 1975. Quite a few of the former players are no longer alive and hence it should be interesting to see how this association would function in the immediate future.

But the restoring of votes to the three bodies and along with the jettisoning of the ‘one-state-one-vote’ clause brings substantial balance to the Board.
In the Lodha reforms, geographical East India had 13 votes while North with eight, South with six and West with three were at a decided disadvantage in any jostling for votes. Now, with the restored votes — four to West and three by way of RSPB, Services and Universities — the tilt towards East is not as lop-sided.

However, Thursday’s SC ruling might see the entire top hierarchy of the BCCI and many of its affiliated units being swept away. One only hopes that any vacuum caused is not filled in the immediate future by inexperienced office-bearers of Tripura, Manipur, Sikkim or other recent entrants to BCCI. That would trigger problems that are far too scary even to contemplate.

The three-year cooling-off period after six years in administration will hit almost all Board, IPL governing council, and affiliated units office-bearers. But it is certainly better than the Lodha panel-proposed cooling-off after a single three-year term. At least now there would be continuity and office-bearers cannot be easily manipulated either by paid staff or ICC.

The minimum qualification for selectors is most welcome. In the past those who had played little or no cricket were appointed national selectors. But now the SC has laid down standards: ‘minimum of (a) 7 Tests; or (b) 30 first-class matches; or (c) 10 ODIs in the 50-over format and a minimum of 20 first-class matches.’

Importantly, the court has directed the Registrar of Societies under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975, to register the new BCCI constitution “forthwith” upon its presentation by the CEO and “report compliance” to the Secretary General of the Supreme Court “within four weeks”.

Following that, BCCI’s units will have 30 days to register their constitution “on similar lines”.

Sadly, experienced administrators above 70 years of age would be out of the Board and its affiliated units. Bodies more popular and powerful than BCCI, like IOC or FIFA, have benefited from having experienced older administrators in their ranks. But Lodha panel which was eager “to end monopoly of vested interests” and which the SC agreed upon, has deprived BCCI forever from tapping into extraordinary expertise if the person was 70 years of age and above. In the long run, Indian cricket will be the poorer for it.

Updated Date: Aug 10, 2018





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