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Amicus curiae in favour of five-member selection panel, vote for Railways

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The Supreme Court of India is moving towards a final verdict over the BCCI’s delays in implementing the Lodha Committee recommendations and adopting a fresh constitution as drafted by its Committee of Administrators (CoA).

At its last hearing on May 11, the court had asked amicus curiae Gopal Subramanium to study and respond to the objections and suggestions from the BCCI’s member units, the state associations, regarding the draft BCCI constitution drawn up by the CoA. The states have also been asked to submit their responses to Subramanium’s observations before the court convenes for the next hearing, scheduled on July 5.

Following is the summary of the submissions made by Subramanium concerning the various recommendations the BCCI members had objections to or said they could not implement.

One state one vote

The issue: As per the Lodha Committee, and seconded by the CoA, each Indian state could have only one Full Member association that would have a vote at the BCCI table. In the case of Maharashtra and Gujarat, which have multiple state associations due to their cricket history, the vote would be rotated annually. These associations – the Mumbai Cricket Association, the Maharashtra Cricket Association and the Vidarbha Cricket Association in Maharashtra, and the Gujarat Cricket Association, the Saurashtra Cricket Association and the Baroda Cricket Association in Gujarat – have opposed such a move.

Subramanium’s response: The amicus curiae said he approved the Lodha Committee’s reasoning to allocate a vote to each state on a “territorial” basis. He also said the court had “mandated” that each of the three associations within the state would get a vote on annual basis, which “brings parity and fairness”.

Subramanium said the one-state-one-vote reform provided “democratic equality” which was essential. “Unless sufficient prejudice is shown that a member by annual rotation is not able to effectively participate in the affairs of the BCCI, the Amicus is unable to recommend deviation from the position adopted by the Hon’ble Justice Lodha Committee, and as modified by the Principal Judgment.”

Railways can have a vote

The issue: The Lodha Committee and the CoA had also determined that the member associations that were either run by the government or had limited participation in BCCI events – such as the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), the Railway Sports Promotion Board (“Railways”) and the Services Sports Control Board (“Services”) along with the National Cricket Club (NCC), Kolkata, and the Cricket Club of India (CCI), Mumbai – would lose the vote they had enjoyed under the old BCCI constitution.

Subramanium’s response: The amicus said Railways ought to be treated as an “exception” based on the fact that the institution provides “at least 90%” of the players who play for India women. “In view of the security of employment of the players from Railways as well as the ability to demonstrate playing skills and having regard to women’s cricket as an integral part of Indian Cricket, it appears necessary to consider this as an exception.”

Subrmanium, though, said that the person from Railways casting the vote at the BCCI table would need to be a former player and not someone “nominated” by the government. “Such a decision must be undertaken by an association of former players who belong to the Railways.”

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The rest of the associations in this group – the AIU, Services, NCC and CCI – did not qualify for full membership criteria, Subramaniam said.

Selection Committee strength

The issue: The BCCI has argued that the vast volume of cricket it conducts and the number of teams and tournaments under its jurisdiction justify a five-member selection panel for all three categories: men’s, women’s and junior. The Lodha Committee and the CoA had instead felt three-member panels were good enough.

Subramanium’s response: The amicus has recommended that the selection panel strength could be “increased” to five. He has also set a fresh set of criteria for to be a national selector: the candidate should have played a minimum of: a) seven Test Matches; or b) 30 first-class matches; or c) 10 ODIs and a minimum of 20 first-class matches.

The amicus felt an enhanced selection committee was “imminent” to “relieve” the burden of the existing three-member panel. This enhanced committed, Subrmanium said, should be finalised by the CoA in consultation with the cricket advisory committee.

Cooling-off period

The issue: The office bearers and administrators in both the BCCI and the state associations do not want a cooling-off period of three years after every three-year term as recommended by the Lodha Committee. The break, the administrators say, does not allow them enough time to advocate and execute plans and could hamper continuity.

Subramanium’s response: Subramaniam noted that the thrust of the Lodha Committee – which was “distressed” by the continued presence of office bearers, some for decades – was to “militate against self-perpetuation.” Subrmanium said the court has allowed office bearers to serve nine years each at state and BCCI separately, which he found to be a “substantial “period. “A period of 18 years by any stretch of imagination is indeed a substantial period,” the amicus said. “It is necessary that the expression ‘cooling off’ must necessarily mean that after a period of 3 years, the person is not able to migrate to the other Association and occupy the position as an office bearer or occupy any other position in the same Association.”

Division of powers between general body and professional management

The issue: Under the existing system, the BCCI secretary informally carries out the role of the CEO and shares power with the board president. Under the Lodha Committee’s recommendations, and as part of the new constitution, the role of the office bearers would be diminished while the CEO would be granted significant independent decision-making powers. Many of the BCCI members are against ceding control.

Subramanium’s response: According to the amicus the general body, which comprises the state associations, needs to be separate from the nine-person Apex Council through which the board’s chief executive officer directs the professional management of the BCCI. “It is necessary that this recommendation of the Hon’ble Justice Lodha Committee, as reflected in the Constitution, must be maintained and the professional management must be undertaken by the Apex Council through the CEO (who is also the custodian of the interests of players and fans), CFO and such other instrumentalities who are recruited on a totally transparent and professional basis.”

Subramaniam also stated that it would be “appropriate’ for the Court to consider whether the current BCCI office bearers – acting president CK Khanna, acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary and treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry – be asked to demit office as they had completed their “legally valid tenures of office”.

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