Supreme Court Slams the BCCI on Distribution of Funds

The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed the Board of Control for Cricket in India for its funds distribution policy to state cricket associations.

BCCI President Shashank Mahohar. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

                                     BCCI President Shashank Manohar. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: A Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Ibrahim Kalifulla held a hearing on the affidavit filed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) arguing against its ability to implement the Justice Lodha committee recommendations.

The bench told senior counsel K. K. Venugopal, appearing for the BCCI, that records of payments made to certain member-states such as Gujarat, Goa, and Tripura are much higher than the ones made to 11 other states such as Bihar and Chhattisgarh. The apex court noted that 11 of the 29 member-states have been allocated next to no funds, hindering the development of cricket in the country.

Thakur told Venugopal: “You allot money without demanding explanations, which is basically corrupting them (the states). How do you expect neglected states to develop if you don’t give them money? For six years, not a penny (was) given to Bihar, while Gujarat got Rs. 60 crores. You have done nothing to promote the game.”

Defending the allocation of the funds, Venugopal responded, “We have started activities in Union Territories to promote the game. We helped all affiliate and associate members, (as well as) full members. Arunachal Pradesh and Bihar did not give audited accounts, (which is) why they did not get funds from 2010.”

Venugopal voiced the BCCI’s objections to at least ten of the Lodha committee’s recommendations, including its one state, one vote policy. In response, Thakur observed, “This committee is not an ordinary one consisting of government officials (that you can) complain about. A former chief justice of India headed the committee, and we repose faith in its findings, which are a result of extensive deliberations with a broad spectrum of people spread through a year.”

Venugopal said that the Lodha committee had neither sought the views of past or present BCCI officer-bearers, nor informed them about its proposed recommendations. He argued that the committee did not give the BCCI an opportunity to share its views on the recommendations before they became part of the final report.

Senior counsel Ashok Desai, appearing for the Punjab Cricket Association, also objected to certain recommendations. Thakur retorted, “The Justice Lodha committee has not changed the rules of the game. It does not say that there should be seven balls in an over. It only recommends change in the persons managing cricket administration.”

Arguments will continue on April 8.

In its affidavit, the BCCI opposed the one state, one vote policy, and said that equal representation of all states, irrespective of cricketing activity, is likely to result in a situation where states with little or no cricketing activity will abuse their representation. It held up the 2015 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) corruption scandal as an example of the possible consequences of implementing the one state, one vote policy. Countries with little or no football activity were allegedly bribed by FIFA officials to vote in a particular manner.

It argued that the process of recognising only one of multiple existing members will be fraught with difficulties. For example, of Mumbai, Maharashtra, and Vidarbha, making Mumbai the full member with jurisdiction over the other two, could destroy the Ranji Trophy tournament, which is the country’s premier domestic tournament, and reduce rather than increase opportunities for players.

The board has also objected to the committee’s recommendation to drastically reduce advertisements during the telecast of matches, saying this will have a crippling effect on the financial health of the BCCI. It argued that restricting advertisements to only the drinks, lunch, and tea breaks will substantially devalue broadcast rights, as broadcasters will only pay a fraction of the amount they are paying now for one day internationals (ODIs), and will refuse to pay for international test matches.

Objecting to the recommendation that the term of office bearers be restricted, the BCCI said that this would hamper the continuity of meritorious and deserving administrators, thereby impacting the development of the game . Existing rules do not allow for a person to serve a third term after they have completed two consecutive terms. The BCCI also argued that a ban on ministers and government servants holding honorary posts would be in violation of the right to freedom of association, under Article 19(1)c of the Constitution. It said that an age cap of 70 years for office bearers is unwarranted, arguing that age does not affect efficiency.