The Supreme Court diluting the provision of a cooling-off period for cricket office-bearers is just the latest development in the history of the contentious clause.
The provision that the top positions in the cricket board should not be occupied by an individual for a long period of time was a result of the recommendations of the Lodha Committee, formed mainly to recommend reforms in Indian cricket.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Justice RM Lodha said, “Cooling off was the most important pillar of our report as far as governance and structure of the BCCI is concerned.”
But the clause of a cooling-off period, understandably, became a bone of contention since its introduction as it affected the long-entrenched heavyweights in the board. They pleaded to the apex court that the provision, which mandated a three-year cooling-off period after holding office for three years – whether in the BCCI or any state association – be relaxed. The original recommendation in the Lodha report of 2016 was amended to require a cooling-off period after six years – whether in the board or a state.
“Six years in continuation is a sufficiently long period for experience and knowledge gained to be deployed in the interest of the game without at the same time resulting in a monopoly of power,” Justice YV Chandrachud was quoted as saying.
According to the amended provision, incumbent BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah would have had to step down in July 2020 as they had been in office at Cricket Association of Bengal and Gujarat Cricket Association respectively. But after Wednesday’s Supreme Court verdict, which allows for two consecutive terms of six years in office – in the BCCI and a state association – has paved the way for them to continue their tenures. It came after BCCI sought permission from the highest court of the land to amend its constitution to do away with the provision of a cooling-off period.
What this, in essence, means is that an individual can hold office in a state association and the BCCI for a period of 12 years in succession.
However, if someone who has been a member of a state association for two terms wants to again contest for a post in a state association, he/she will have to undergo a cooling-off period of three years before they become eligible again.
The argument offered in favour of a longer tenure in office was that it takes several years to master the administrative side of the game and gain experience in the various facets of working in the BCCI or the state associations. It would be counter-productive to let go of the experience and expertise gained over a period of time, it was claimed. It was also argued that the more experienced and longer-serving an office-bearer is, the more effectively he/she will be able to put forth BCCI’s case in the International Cricket Council (ICC) and other multilateral fora.
Playing the system
The cooling-off period, which was supposed to come into effect after a three-year term – whether at the BCCI or a state association – according to the original Lodha panel recommendations, will now be enforced after a period four times longer.
It is pertinent to note that the six years in office allowed by Wednesday’s judgment amounts to two terms of three years each. It remains to be seen whether a tenure of less than three years will be counted as a separate term for the purpose of deciding cooling-off period.
Other sticking points
While the cooling-off period was the biggest sticking point, there were several other areas where the BCCI sought a departure from the Lodha Committee recommendations. These included ‘one-state-one-vote, and a three-member selection panel. There were several states with more than one member associations in them – most notably Maharashtra (which included Mumbai and Vidarbha) and Gujarat (which included Saurashtra and Baroda). It was argued that these member bodies had provided great service to Indian cricket and it would be a travesty if they were denied BCCI membership or voting rights.
On a BCCI plea, the court, on August 9, 2018, agreed to amend the one-state-one-vote provision and allowed a five-member selection committee. It also gave voting rights to Services, Railways and Association of Universities.