On borrowed time, BCCI officials set to rule for some more as SC verdict awaited

By Qaiser Mohammad Ali
New Delhi, Dec 6 : When the Indian cricket board holds its Annual General Meeting on December 24, the Supreme Court would be on winter vacation. Its vacation is from December 18 to January 1, and it means that the much-delayed cricket reforms case would most probably spill into the New Year. It also means that Sourav Ganguly, Jay Shah, and Jayesh George would continue in the chair in 2021, despite their terms having got over the past few months.

The new constitution of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) makes it mandatory for its office-bearers — President, Vice President, Secretary, Joint Secretary, and Treasurer — to go into a three-year cooling-off period after being in the chair for six consecutive years, either in the BCCI or its affiliate state association, or a combination of both.

The person can return for another term of three years after the cooling-off period (a person can be an office-bearer in the BCCI for a maximum of nine years and another nine years in a state association). And this is one of the seven crucial rules, on which the edifice of the new constitution is erected, they seek to amend so that they could continue to rule.

The case was first filed as a Public Interest Litigation in the Bombay High Court in July 2013, relating to a betting-fixing scandal in the 2013 Indian Premier League (IPL). But after receiving only partial favourable judgment from there, it was moved to the Supreme Court in August that year. Since then, the Supreme Court has delivered as many as six judgments and numerous orders have been passed, and 287 applications have been filed.

After being elected BCCI President on October 23 last year, Ganguly had only 278 days to remain in the post as his previous tenure at the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) was added to his BCCI term (he had joined the CAB as a Joint Secretary in July 2014). So, his BCCI term effectively ended on July 26, 2020.

Secretary Jay Shah, according to reports published in mainline newspapers in 2013, took over as Joint Secretary of the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) on September 8, 2013, though he was a GCA executive before that. And he has been associated with the GCA since. So his tenure, too, has gotten over some time ago.

George has been a Secretary, Joint Secretary, and Treasurer of the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) for five years and has completed one year as BCCI Joint Secretary.

In September last year, at the time of KCA elections, he was quoted in newspapers as saying: “I was an office-bearer from June 21, 2013, to July 7, 2018. I still have 11 months to complete the six-year term.”

He took a break between July 7, 2018, and September 14, 2019. On September 15, 2019, he became KCA President, a post he relinquished when he became BCCI Joint Secretary on October 23, 2019. That means he has completed six years continuously as a cricket administrator, excluding the break. Accordingly, he should have gone into cooling off period on September 14.

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All the three officials are, however, staying put as they are awaiting the Supreme Court’s directions on their application that seeks to effect seven amendments to the new BCCI constitution that the apex court has approved. Essentially, their bid is to get rid of Rule 45, which makes it mandatory for the BCCI to get all amendments approved by the Supreme Court, amended.

If this single rule is amended, the spirit and soul of the reforms would die an instant death. And the crores of rupees that BCCI has spent on litigation and the seven and a half years that the Supreme Court has devoted to this case would go down the drain. If this rule is amended, the beneficiary would not be only Ganguly, Shah, and George, but all other present and future office-bearers, both at the BCCI and its affiliates.

But there is hope. At the moment, a three-member bench, headed by Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, and Ajay Rastogi, is hearing the case. Interestingly, Rao, as Additional Solicitor General, was part of a three-member committee, headed by former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Mukul Mudgal, in October 2013, in this very case.

Based on the Mudgal Committee report, Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Chennai Super Kings (CSK) was banned for two years from competing while CSK official Gurunath Meiyappan and Rajasthan Royals part owner Raj Kundra were banned for life. Then began the controversial and long drawn bid to reform Indian cricket administration.

Rao, who became a SC judge in May 2016, is a keen cricket follower and, according to sources, he follows the game very closely and apparently knows several cricket administrators.

“The judge on the last occasion (December 1) had fixed hearing for some matters on December 9 and these would be sent to the various High Courts. Then, the bench is likely to fix dates for the other miscellaneous applications for some other dates in the next year before disposing it off. So, in the next one or two hearings, it would be clear,” a source told IANS.

“Justice Rao is known to dispose of cases quickly, and wouldn’t keep this one lingering for long as well. It’ll be good as well, as the case needs to be disposed of either way. He has been associated with cricket from his very early days, and is fond of the game. He has been associated with the BCCI and has appeared in cricket litigation, and he knows the pulse of what is happening. He knows the system; and was part of the Mudgal Committee. And he is sitting with two other judges who also don’t keep matters lingering,” he said.

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The Supreme Court hasn’t taken up the BCCI’s application so far, and the amicus curiae in this case, P.S. Narasimha, told IANS on December 2 that the application wouldn’t be taken up on December 9, too, when the next hearing is scheduled. And if that indeed happens, the case is set to go into the New Year.

“On December 9, the issues that can be resolved by the High Courts will be heard — the intra-state disputes of the state cricket associations and all that. It will not be so much about the states’ constitutions; it will be about some members not being allowed (into the associations), some members being thrown out [of the associations]; members’ grievances etc,” Narasimha had told IANS.

Also, going by long periods between hearings in this case, it is most likely that the hearings would continue the next year. The apex court’s winter vacation ends on January 1, a Friday, and since the court does not sit at weekends, the earliest this case would be heard next would be on January 4.

The BCCI has prayed in its application, filed in April, that it be allowed to “repeal/add/amend/alter” its own constitution as and when it desires, with three-fourth majority of the general body members present and voting, and without seeking the Supreme Court’s permission.

On the contrary, the SC-approved constitution, registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act 1975, says that no amendment could be effected without its express approval. Although the BCCI is seeking seven amendments to the constitution, in reality, only one of these would be good enough to dismantle the entire reforms.

That is Rule 45 which says that these “rules and regulations of the BCCI shall not be repealed, added to, amended or altered except when passed and adopted by a three-fourth majority of the members present and entitled to vote at a special general meeting of the general body…”

The rule further, and expressly, concludes: “Any such amendment will not be given effect to without the leave of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.” The BCCI has proposed, in its application, for deleting this crucial sentence, which forms the very backbone of the reforms. If this line is repealed, the entire hard work of the three-member Lodha Committee and the precious time that Supreme Court has devoted to this case for seven and a half years, i.e. since August 2013, vanishes.

However, the proverbial last word on cricket reforms is yet to be said.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from IANS service.

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