Judicial overreach will destroy BCCI

The SC has asked Justice Lodha to monitor the BCCI's revamp.

When you see photographs of a former Chief Justice of India on the sports pages, it is a clear sign that judicial overreach has reached a new high. From dictating the age and size of diesel cars to the retirement age of cricket board officials, to prescribing what entrance exams should be held for medical colleges, our judiciary’s wise men are omnipresent. Our judges respect no boundaries between the roles of the executive and judiciary: name any field, and the judiciary has the expertise and wisdom to reform it. The latest example is the Lodha Committee report on the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The two Supreme Court judges examining the BCCI’s objections to the Lodha Committee recommendations actually said the BCCI had done nothing for cricket.

This incredible statement was aimed at the best-run sports body in the country, one which has taken the Indian team to the very top in world cricket in different formats. This hasn’t just happened by accident: talent scouts have gone all over the country, coaching camps have been organised, the National Cricket Academy nurtures young cricketers, under-19 teams tour overseas, “A” team tours give experience to future India stars... it’s a long list, which is most impressive. In addition, cricketers are well paid, and payment is not made just to cricketers in the current national team, but past players are also given handsome rewards for national service. Ranji Trophy players have not been left out either: in fact, they now get paid quite well by most standards. This is possible because the BCCI earned a revenue of over Rs 1,200 crores last year with a profit of over '220 crores. That makes it the world’s richest cricket body by far.

Yet the Lodha Committee has suggested drastic restructuring of its organisation, and the Supreme Court has asked Rajendra Mal Lodha himself to monitor this restructuring. This is normally done for sick companies, that are under the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR), not for companies doing well. How many entities in the country make such a large profit? Does this profit happen by accident, or because the BCCI is extremely well run? One of the reasons the cricket board functions efficiently is that it is free from government control. So what does Justice Lodha do? He suggests that the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India audit its finances, both at the national and state levels. As we have seen in the past, CAG chiefs like Vinod Rai have let their power go to their head, and as in the 2G scam have given such inflated figures of notional losses as to beggar belief. Have no illusion about this: to have the CAG around to inspect your accounts is to cut off the flexibility and instant decision-making abilities so essential to running an efficient outfit. Ignoring that, Justice Lodha and the Supreme Court, in their infinite wisdom, decided to bring in bureaucratic red tape into the BCCI’s working.

Why was the Lodha Committee formed in the first place? It was an offshoot of the Justice Mudgal Committee, that was formed to examine allegations of betting by IPL franchise owners and spot-fixing by cricketers. Was this a matter for judicial interference? It really was a matter for the cricket administration to look into and fix, instead of which the judiciary did its usual over-reach. Not content with that, it decided to form another committee to reform a body that didn’t need reforming. Since we accept judicial overreach in so many aspects of national life, even this would have been all right if the Lodha Committee recommendations were just that, recommendations. But the Supreme Court has turned them, instead, into judicial orders!

Its headline-grabbing order is to debar politicians and bureaucrats from holding posts in the BCCI or in state cricket bodies. Given the general national feeling about pols and babus (as the media calls them now), this at first sounds like a good thing, except for the general principle of class discrimination: why should you debar particular professions as a whole? Cricket bodies have politicians as they wield power and can get things done. As for bureaucrats, once they are out of the bureaucratic structure, they bring experience and administrative skills, which are excellent. See how retired IAS officers are sought after by large private sector corporations for important positions.

As for limiting the age of office-bearers to 70, and deciding on the general principle of one man-one post, these sound like good recommendations. But why should these be made mandatory by court order? There are rules that could have been, and possibly should have been, made by the BCCI itself, not by an outside body that will later have no responsibility for the outfit’s functioning.

One of the Lodha Committee’s worst recommendations, now made mandatory by the Supreme Court, is the one state-one vote rule. Cricket history in India going back over a century has teams participating in the Ranji Trophy from Railways and Services. They have now been made associate members. Sticking to its strict “geographical territory” criteria, teams like Bombay, Baroda, Saurashtra and others will now be wiped out. Considering that Bombay won the Ranji Trophy more often than any team in its history, isn’t this completely unjust? Do Justice Lodha and the Supreme Court not respect the history of the game?

Not even the most ardent supporter of cricket and the BCCI will suggest that it did not need reforms. People like N. Srinivasan blatantly flouted all ethical norms when, as president of BCCI, the body that runs IPL, he could own an IPL franchise himself. Powerful cricket satraps have used their clout to schedule important cricket matches in their own states, or given them a disproportionate amount of money from the central kitty. These needed reform, of course, but the Lodha Committee and the Supreme Court have cruelly thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

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