The significance of some judicial interventions trumps the fact that they are unusual or are marred by excessive activism. The Supreme Court’s project to revamp the cricket administration is one such. It has >accepted the recommendations of a committee> headed by former Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha, which favoured sweeping structural reforms and specific rules to eliminate conflicts of interest and the creation of near-permanent tenures and fiefdoms. In its overall approach, the court has shown a sharp understanding of two broad ills: the concentration of power in the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the patronage extended by the office to favoured individuals who enjoy the president’s confidence. The panel’s recommendations stem from the same concern: they include restrictions on the number of terms and overall tenure for office-bearers, a bar on anyone holding more than one office at a time, a cooling-off period between one tenure and another, and the replacement of the bloated working committee with a nine-member Apex Council with player representation. Normally, a private body would not be subject to such restrictions in its right to form an association. And the BCCI may well believe its powers are unfettered or at least not subject to judicial micromanagement. But cricket is a national sport and the BCCI, irrespective of its legal status, must act in a transparent and accountable manner as a trustee of the game. The need to do so is all the greater given the huge infusion of corporate funding in recent years, which has attracted an assortment of operators and shadowy interests seeking to capitalise on cricket’s popularity.
It was the betting scandal that hit the Indian Premier League in 2013 that brought to the fore the unsavoury aspects of the cricketing administration. An impression had gained ground that the Board operated like a cosy, self-serving club. That it was important to put an end to grave conflict of interest issues that have plagued the game and take a hard line against malpractices such as match-fixing and spot-fixing is indisputable. One may disagree with some aspects of the court’s order such as the ‘one State one vote’ rule and the placing of a cap on the age of office-bearers — these are details best left to administrative bodies. But these are but cavils given the overall thrust of the order, which is aimed at introducing a measure of professionalism in the management of the game. It is here that the Supreme Court’s order will be tested in the years to come. If it brings about greater transparency in the operation of both commercial and sporting aspects of cricket, it would mean a significant victory for its genuine proponents and supporters.
Corrections & Clarifications:
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