Is the Justice Lodha panel paying any attention to BCCI's dirty laundry?

As more and more revelations about the BCCI (and its member associations) come tumbling out of the closet, one hopes the Supreme Court-appointed Justice Lodha committee is paying close attention.

Amidst the Lalti Modi-led deluge of tweets and documents, it is easy to forget that the BCCI has not yet emerged unscathed by the investigation into IPL spot-fixing and gambling that resulted in N Srinivasan being forced to give up his hold on power.

While the board is doing its best to present a prettier face to the public, it is becoming more and more evident that nothing short of a cleaning of the Augean stables will change the way the BCCI functions. The muck runs too deep for cosmetic changes to have any effect.

 Is the Justice Lodha panel paying any attention to BCCIs dirty laundry?

The BCCI has always been a law unto itself. Reuters

As Firstpost reported last week, in addition to Lalit Modi, the Enforcement Directorate sent show-cause notices to the BCCI, former president Srinivasan, current IPL coo Sundar Raman and a host of others. Yet Lalit has somehow been held up to be some sort of criminal lone ranger who somehow managed to hoodwink some very powerful and canny politicians and industrialists. It is no wonder that the ED rejected the explanations from the likes of Srinivasan and Shahshank Manohar, another former president, who tried to pin all the blame on Lalit’s shoulders. It is the entire institution that is at fault.

More evidence that it is the board that has dirty fingers comes from a story in Outlook magazine, that cites a parliamentary standing committee report to the IPL that indicted the BCCI and a number of IPL franchises for tax evasion and foreign exchange violations.

The report goes even further, saying the government isn’t blameless either.

“It [the report] did not spare the government either, particularly the finance ministry and its agencies. They have been faulted for winking at violations and being “very lenient on (the) BCCI, allowing them to enrich their coffers at the expense of the exchequer”. While the committee first made its recommendations in 2011, it noted that even after two years the ED and the I-T department had not completed the probe. There is, therefore, scepticism about the ministry’s willingness and ability to go after BCCI bigwigs.”

In the Indian Express, Economist Surjit Bhalla puts his faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi to clean up the mess.

“What he [Prime Minister Modi] must note, is that this is not L’affaire Lalit, but really L’affaire BCCI,” Bhalla writes. “The real conflict of interest is with the BJP and Congress politicians in the BCCI. Politicians of all colour should be made to resign from the BCCI and other sporting bodies. This should be the start of Narendra Modi’s campaign to reduce corruption in India.”

But with so much political resistance to get the BCCI to straighten up and fly right – after all the BCCI is run by politicians that willingly and gladly straddle party lines – it is hard to see how much traction the Prime Minister will get if he attempts to do so. Besides, Modi was the president of the Gujarat Cricket Association until he was appointed PM, after which Amit Shah took his place.

The most likely recourse, then, is the court. The Lodha committee has been interviewing officials and players, past and present, as well as journalists, to figure out how the board functions. An 82-item questionnaire has been its weapon of choice.

Writing for The Wire last month, veteran journalist Prem Panicker believes the panel could be the board’s worst nightmare.

“The Lodha Commission appears to be guided by a fundamental premise: that if cricket in India is to be cleaned up, rooting around in the muck of the past is not the best use of its time. Instead, the commission seems bent on acquiring information on systemic flaws in the existing structure, which in turn will inform the framing of a revised constitution that is better suited to the era of cricket as big business,” he noted.

Of course, in the past the board has been free to ignore or amend its constitution as it wishes. That’s what led to Srinivasan becoming board president and IPL team owner, while also denying any conflict-of-interest with a straight face.

That’s why the court needs to send a message that wrong-doing will not be tolerated. If it allows those who corrupted and used the system to get away, those that follow could well be ennobled to try to game the system again once all the fuss has died down.

In this respect, Bhalla’s warning needs to be heeded. “I used to believe that history will judge Fifa as the most legally corrupt organisation in the world and the BCCI, the second,” he writes, “I now believe that history will judge the BCCI as the most corrupt.”

Hopefully, the Lodha committee is listening. And taking action behind the scenes.

Updated Date: Jul 07, 2015 08:17:04 IST