BCCI remains opaque and continues to flout its own Constitution!

The Supreme Court of India, which initiated reforms in the world's richest cricket body with a net worth of Rs 18 thousand Crore, seems to have lost interest in the case, writes Qaiser Mohammed Ali

Sourav Ganguly and Jay Shah
Sourav Ganguly and Jay Shah

Qaiser Mohammad Ali

F our years ago, on January 2, 2017, the Supreme Court asked the then BCCI president and secretary to “cease and desist” from being associated with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). It followed recommendations submitted a year earlier on January 4, 2016, when the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committee submitted its report to make Indian cricket administration transparent and accountable.

Since then, a number of questions have been raised at the way BCCI, one of the richest sports bodies in the world with a net worth of Rs.18,011 crore, has been functioning. There is overlap of functions and hints of interference. There are financial issues related to income tax, court cases and arbitration that have been unresolved for a long time.

If BCCI loses even a few of these cases, it would have to pay through its nose, though no administrator would be individually affected as the organisation would pay the price. No wonder a wary BCCI has since 2014 set aside a ‘budget’ of at least Rs.830.32 crore for litigation.

Besides income tax and service tax disputes, there are deals done without signed contracts, arbitration issues etc. that are pending for a long time and reflect poorly on BCCI. The present dispensation however inherited most of the unresolved issues, including one pertaining to the 1996 World Cup that BCCI had jointly hosted with Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

“Certain matters relating to earlier years, which were the matters of qualification in the audit report on the financial statements for the year ended 31st March 2020, continue to remain unresolved as on 31st March 2021,” say BCCI’s independent auditors in their report attached to the 2020-21 balance sheet. Although there are so many sensitive financial matters of great importance to handle, the BCCI hasn’t filled the post of the CFO.

All BCCI office-bearers, except the treasurer (he too has only 10 months left of his term), are carrying on defiantly even after their three-year terms – including their tenure with state associations -- got over. The new BCCI constitution mandates a threeyear cooling off period after every three years in office for office-bearers.

“It is a Supreme Court-approved constitution. If you don’t adhere to it then it’s contempt of court. You should implement the reforms and later ask for changes. It should not be the other way round,” former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar told National Herald On Sunday.

Transparency, too, has gone for a huge six while crucial decisions are delayed. The annual player contracts for men and women for 2021-22, which should ideally be finalised before the domestic cricket season begins in August-September, haven’t been announced yet.

The posts of Ombudsman and Ethics Officer have been lying vacant for seven months. The annual accounts/balance sheets haven’t been officially disclosed and uploaded on the BCCI website for four years since 2017-18. Minutes of three apex council meetings held in 2020 are also missing while the minutes of the IPL Governing Council meetings haven’t been shared at all, in defiance of its own constitution.

Former CJI, Justice T.S. Thakur (retd), in 2017 had ordered BCCI president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke to leave their posts. He had famously called the Board a “mutually beneficial society” during the hearings. Having equally famously asked the BCCI to “fall in line” and embrace reforms, he had taken the BCCI to task on the issue of unequal distribution of funds amongst its affiliates.

“If out of 29 states, 11 states are begging for money [from the BCCI] that’s not good. And you have given Rs.60 crore to Gujarat [spread over a few years]. You are practically corrupting that person [the association] for votes,” Justice Thakur had said, turning to BCCI counsel K.K. Venugopal.

The SC had in January 2015 appointed the three-member Lodha Committee while hearing a PIL in the 2013 IPL betting-fixing scandal, and had expanded scope of the reference to include reforms – something unprecedented in the annals of Indian cricket.

Since March 2014, when the IPL bettingfixing case was first registered in the Supreme Court, six judgments and 278 orders have been delivered by various benches that have heard the case so far. And in this period, eight Chief Justices, including the present one, have occupied the chair.

But the reforms have still not been implemented fully, either at the BCCI or by the state associations, even after the apex court approved a new constitution for the BCCI, which was registered in August 2018. Both the BCCI and its affiliates have so far embraced only those portions of the constitution that suited them.

After having lost the review and curative petitions in the Supreme Court, BCCI office-bearers in April 2020 filed an application in the same court with an aim to effectively overturn the reforms. They sought amendments to seven game-changing rules. But the court has not taken up the application so far. If the court upholds the BCCI’s prayer made in the application, the precious time of the court, crores of rupees spent by the Board and the entire effort of the Lodha Committee could well go down the drain.

When the present BCCI dispensation came to power in October 2019, people had a lot of expectations from Sourav Ganguly, who led one of the four groups that joined hands to ‘oust’ the Supreme Courtappointed Committee of Administrators (CoA), which had administered and managed the game for about 33 months until then. But his stint so far has been disappointing and failed to make BCCI a more transparent and accountable body.

“Ninety per cent of cricketers-turnedadministrators – except perhaps Bishan Singh Bedi, who is not an administrator – have sold their souls,” says 77-year-old Mumbai-based cricket activist Ravi Mandrekar, secretary of Gaud Saraswat Club and a former member of the Mumbai Cricket Association managing committee.

To add to the mess, Virat Kohli-Ganguly war of words exploded on the eve of the Indian team’s departure for South Africa for a crucial Test series (India have never won a Test series in the Rainbow Nation). Many experts termed this as the worst public spat since the 2005 Ganguly-Greg Chappell controversy, which left an indelible scar on Indian cricket. Even with a distinguished cricketer at BCCI’s helm, the organisation has not changed its stripes.

Despite being a cash rich body, BCCI has in recent years faced embarrassment when its tenders for sponsorship elicited no response at all. For example, in late 2020 not a single bidder turned up when it invited proposals for a new sponsor to supply kits to the glamorous and successful Indian men’s and women’s teams.

The world’s richest national cricket body blamed it on the Covid-19 “situation”, but it confirmed the buzz that corporate houses were not too keen to outbid each other and sponsor the Indian team.

Monthly reports of payments worth Rs. 25 lakh or above used to be uploaded on its website. This practice, started by the then BCCI president Shashank Manohar in 2015, has been discontinued. Expenditure reports for the last 10 months haven’t also been disclosed on the Board’s website. And in the accounts uploaded, expenses pertaining to litigation are missing.

Unlike in the past, now there is effectively no opposition to the ruling clique. “There are no discussions held in the Board these days before taking important decisions, due to fear of big wigs pulling strings from behind the scenes,” confided a state association official.

The present dispensation came together on October 23, 2019 when four groups hurriedly formed a coalition.

A state official from the north-east, chosen to ‘second’ an applicant, forgot the name of the person he was endorsing when he came face to face with the electoral officer, former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami. The gentleman,however, ‘seconded’ two key office-bearers of the BCCI that day.

This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.

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