Cooling-off order will hurt Indian cricket

Cricketer-turned-politician Kirti Azad has expressed concern over the recent Supreme Court order to amend the constitution of the Indian cricket board, saying a coterie will continue to control the sport in the country like it was before 2016.

The 63-year-old, among the most critical voices against corruption in the Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI), told IANS that the committee constituted by the then Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur had corrected certain anomalies in the BCCI but removed in the Sept 14 judgment.

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court allowed the BCCI plea to relax the cooling-off period. This will allow the current office-bearers, led by BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah, to be in office until 2025.

Ganguly and Shah already served one term each at the state and BCCI levels and previously would have been disqualified, but they can now serve an additional term in the BCCI.

According to the new order, the cooling-off period for office-bearers will kick in after two consecutive terms at either the BCCI or at the state association level. This means office-bearers can now have a maximum of 12 years at one go: Two three-year terms each at the state association level and BCCI, after which the cooling-off period will be applicable.

In December 2019, the BCCI approached the Supreme Court to modify its own judgment of 2018, which asked for several amendments to the cricket board's constitution.

Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Hima Kohli accepted a majority of the amendments on Sept 14, thus rolling back to a large extent the reforms recommended by the R.M. Lodha Committee in 2016 to revamp the BCCI's function and structure.

During the hearing on the cooling-off clause in the Supreme Court, the BCCI said continuity and longer terms are important for office-bearers to serve Indian cricket better.

The cooling-off period was a major recommendation made by the Lodha Committee to reform cricket administration in India, with the idea of having impartial cricket administrators and preventing monopoly.

"Certain administrators hold on to posts year after year. With the presence of IPL (Indian Premier League) in cricket, we wanted no monopoly by any person or body of persons," Justice Lodha told IANS after the recent Supreme Court order.

"Every three years, new people come. After a cooling-off period, you contest again. If you think continuity is important, there is no point in having the concept of cooling off at all."

The problem with India's sports administrators is that those in the top posts refuse to vacate them despite not doing much for the welfare of the sport. Even the courts have had to intervene to remove them from their posts for the better functioning of a sports body.

The conflict between the BCCI and the Supreme Court started long ago and has seen a lot of twists and turns.

Asked about his thoughts on the new Supreme Court judgment, Azad, a member of India's 1983 World Cup-winning team, said: "It will get back to what it used to be before 2016. We will find a lot of frauds taking place again. Politicians will take over and crooks will rule the roost.

"Corruption now will be rampant, more than before 2016. There is no transparency and we all know people from big political, influential families have taken over."

Ganguly has no affiliation to any political party but has been actively wooed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party leaders and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress leaders.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah is the son of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while vice-president Rajeev Shukla is a Congress MP. Treasurer Arun Dhumal is the younger brother of Union Minister of Sports, Youth Affairs and Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur.

Indo-Asian News Service

"Corruption now will be rampant, more than before 2016. There is no transparency and we all know people from big political, influential families have taken over."

- Kirti Azad (above)


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