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BCCI vs Lodha panel: Supreme Court has decided the future of sports administration in India

For years, BCCI had positioned itself as a spoilt brat, with the full support of rootless and irresponsible politicians backed by scheming lawyers, and they had long started believing that they were above the law of the country. Certain lawyer-politicians were egging them on to take on the highest court of the land, but thankfully, their bravado has been cryptically – and tragically for them – cut short.

From January to 18 July 2016, when the judgement was handed out, the Supreme Court had given the arrogant BCCI and their state units every opportunity to present their case against any perceived problem arising from Lodha Committee recommendations. Lawyer after lawyer, paid lakhs per hearing, sang only one tune – "We are an independent association and enjoy the right under section 19 (1) (c) under the provisions of the Constitution. hence even you cannot compel us to reform ourselves”. The common man was shocked at the obvious brazenness of the BCCI minions led by an arrogant president who refused to follow the Supreme Court judgement. Thankfully, the Supreme Court has called an end to the BCCI's defiance, and following months of speculation and furore amid the war between the BCCI and Lodha panel, they have decided the future of cricket administration in the country. In one stroke they have ordered the removal of the biggest obstructionist, Anurag Thakur as president of BCCI.

File photo of Anurag Thakur and Ajay Shirke. AFP

File photo of Anurag Thakur and Ajay Shirke. AFP

The SC has held that as per 18 July order, Anurag Thakur and Ajay Shirke chose not to comply and have accordingly been removed. Not surprisingly, a Contempt of Court notice has also been issued to Thakur, who allegedly had "committed perjury" for lying about whether he had asked for a letter from ICC CEO on the appointment of CAG as BCCI member. Just imagine, if a four-time MP does not understand that the Supreme Court judgement is to be respected, then who else in the country understands this?

The recalcitrant office bearers of state units and BCCI have to now abide by recommendations of Lodha panel or demit office forthwith. The double role of Seeta and Geeta – one role in state units and another in BCCI – was seen to be inhibiting the implementation of the judgement. BCCI was helplessly claiming that state units were not prepared to listen to them in the matter of implementing their judgement. Each BCCI mandarin was a boss in one state unit or the other, yet they were trying to hoodwink the Supreme Court about being absolutely helpless in getting their units to comply.

To preempt such smartness, all office bearers of BCCI and state associations are now required to give an undertaking to abide by recommendations of Lodha Committee. The Supreme Court will now move towards appointing an observer for BCCI within two weeks. Till then, the two senior vice-presidents of the BCCI will run the affairs. The senior-most vice president of BCCI will act as president and joint secretary will act as secretary. The apex court has also stated that a committee of administrators will look after the affairs of BCCI. SC has appointed Fali Nariman and senior lawyer Gopal Subramanium as amicus curiae to determine the observers who will oversee the implementation of the judgement. Names of administrators shall be suggested by Fali Nariman and Gopal Subramanium and will be heard on 19 January.

Sports loving Indians and sportspersons have been fed up of corruption in sports. 27 former Olympians, international sportspersons and Arjuna Awardees have come together under Ashok Kumar, former Olympian, hockey captain, and son of  the legendary Maj Dhyan Chand, and have petitioned the Supreme Court to implement the Lodha Committee recommendations across all sporting disciplines. We have cited the guarantee of fundamental rights of sportspersons under Article 14, Article 21 and Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.

Sports is a national unifier, and all social, cultural, regional, religious and caste identities are forgotten by the people in the course of sporting events; only the national identity remains. National sports federations are primarily entrusted with the responsibility of organising, developing and coordinating high level sporting events, and also to coach, supervise and select sportspersons to represent the country at international sporting events.

The Indian government had formulated the National Sports Policy of 2001 and subsequently, recognising the various challenges in sports, formulated the National Sports Policy in 2007. However, since both these sports polices were found lacking in the avowed objectives, the central government introduced the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011. The Delhi High Court, in the case of India Olympic Association vs Union of India, held that the Code would bind all the parties as a condition for recognition, aid and, crucially for the use of the terms ‘India’ by any team in International and Olympic sporting events. The High Court also held that India requires world-class infrastructure to train potential athletes and sportspersons. It is not sufficient if infrastructure is created, but such infrastructure and facilities should be properly maintained and optimum utilisation of the infrastructure should be ensured.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources Development had noted in the 185th report on Promotion of Sports in India that optimum utilisation of our existing sports infrastructure has also been one or the areas of concern. We have erected huge stadia and other sports infrastructure in the metros and cities which are used only when national or international tournaments take place. For the rest of the time, the stadia remain unutilised or are rented out for cultural programs and other non-sporting events. The public at large generally does not have access to such huge stadia. A lot of money is being spent on their maintenance, including security. Sports federations and other bodies have offices there, but do not pay rent.

Besides, excellent infrastructure is created in different states by way of organising National Games there. The Committee came to know that these generally remain idle for most part of the year and States found them difficult to maintain The Committee finds it ironic that on the one hand, we suffer from massive lack of infrastructure and on the other hand, our infrastructure remains unutilised or underutilised. The Committee strongly recommended to have a plan prepared for this purpose in consultation with all the state governments, federations, the Sports Authority of India, etc. for putting our infrastructure to maximum use.

The primary issues in sports administration across disciplines is that most sports bodies are headed by political leaders, who do not have any actual experience of having played the concerned sport themselves. Although considerable funds are allocated by the central government for the development of sports each year in the Union Budget, the same is not properly utilised for creation of facilities for training of sports persons, and sports is not given priority as a career option. Further, there are absolutely no internal checks and balances on National Sports Federations insofar as resolution of disputes or checks on conflict of interest situations. There is also lack of transparency in the election process of the National Sports Federations, leading to several disputes which are causing grave detriment to the development of the concerned sports.

There are several instances of mismanagement and corruption in various National Sports Federations which have caused the downfall of sporting activities. Further, instances of sexual harassment have also caused women and girls to be discouraged from participating in sporting activities. Since there are no checks and balances sports bodies are marred with instances of favoritism, corruption, age fraud etc. The lack of international standard coaching and facilities has directly led to our sportspersons not being able to perform at their best at international sporting events, and is directly affecting their performances. The lack of transparency in the National Sports Federations is causing a direct impediment to the development of sports.

File photo of Justice Lodha. PTI

File photo of Justice Lodha. PTI

I had raised the issue of corruption in the organisation of the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in the Parliament in 2010, subsequent to which a CBI investigation was ordered. Suresh Kalmadi was arrested and stayed in jail for 10 months. There have also been disputes in the functioning of the Badminton Federation of India and there have also been allegations of irregularities and mis-management in national sports federations for kabaddi, wrestling, boxing, basketball, hockey and so on.

The Supreme Court, in the case of Board of Cricket Control in India vs Cricket Association of Bihar (2015), had found that there were several irregularities and illegalities in the manner in which the chief administrator of cricket, ie BCCI, functioned. The board functioned in an opaque manner which was not conforming to principles of transparency, good governance and fair play which were essential to uphold the institutional integrity of the administrator of cricket, especially since it was the board that would send the team to represent India at international events. The court had then constituted the Supreme Court Committee on Cricket Reforms under the chairpersonship of Chief Justice (Retd) RM Lodha, whose recommendations are salutary in nature, but fundamental in achieving the goal of transparency and good governance.

Sports play a very important role in education, human resource development and in unifying the country. The Government of India had introduced the National Sports Development Bill in 2011, primarily to streamline the functioning of National Sports Federations and to promote the sports. The preamble of this Bill is:

“To provide for development of sports in India, coordination of national teams for participation in international events, fair and transparent functioning of autonomous sports bodies and welfare measures for sportspersons, promote ethical practices in sports (including elimination of doping practices, fraud of age and sexual harassment of women in sports), to constitute and to establish a Sports Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal to hear appeals and adjudicate disputes relating to sports and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto."

Subsequently, seeking inputs and suggestions of various stakeholders, the Government of India revised and introduced the draft of the National Sports Development Bill in 2013. However, despite this tremendous exercise undertaken by them, the Bill did not see the light of day and the state of sports administration in India continues to be pathetic as earlier.

I am sure that this Supreme Court judgement will sort out the mess in sports, once and for all. I thank the Supreme Court which has stepped in to define fairness, transparency and integrity in the running of BCCI; other federations will have to follow soon.

The views expressed  are the author's personal opinions

Updated Date: Jan 02, 2017 16:56 PM

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