The dismantling of the existing power structure in Indian cricket administration could be far more comprehensive than previously thought, if the Lodha Committee’s interpretation of the modification in the Supreme Court’s January 2 order holds true. The consequence could be the removal of all the existing BCCI office-bearers and most of the senior administrators at state associations.
On Tuesday the Supreme Court modified one of the sub-clauses in its January 2 order concerning the eligibility of an office-bearer. Originally the order had said: “A person shall be disqualified from being an Office Bearer if he or she has been an Office Bearer of the BCCI for a cumulative period of 9 years.” But on Tuesday, the court modified that to: “Has been an Office Bearer of the BCCI or a State Association for a cumulative period of 9 years.”
According to the Lodha Committee’s interpretation of the modification, if a person had finished nine years as an office-bearer, whether at BCCI or state level or both combined, that person was ineligible to remain as office-bearer at BCCI or state level effective immediately. It is understood the Lodha Committee consulted legal counsel involved in the case, including the BCCI lawyer, before arriving at its interpretation.
The original Lodha Committee recommendation regarding eligibility had made it possible for an individual to serve nine years each at both BCCI and state level. According to the earlier recommendation, a BCCI office-bearer’s cooling-off period could have been a three-year term at their state association, after which they could once again contest an election for a BCCI position. And if they won the BCCI post, the ensuing three-year term would serve as their cooling-off period from holding office at state level. An individual could therefore have spent 18 years in Indian cricket administration between the BCCI and his state association.
This situation had been discussed and made clear to the Supreme Court bench during hearings of the BCCI-Lodha case. Now, however, the 18-year period has been shrunk to a total of nine years, whether they were spent at BCCI or state level, or both.
This would mean that of the high-profile BCCI and state administrators at present, only Sourav Ganguly, the president of the Cricket Association of Bengal, and Arshad Ayub, the president of the Hyderabad Cricket Association, are likely to remain as office-bearers because most of the others have held posts for more than nine years at state level.
It also meant that there could be no interim president to head the BCCI as the court had directed, after it removed the incumbent Anurag Thakur, and secretary Ajay Shirke, from office. The court had said the most senior BCCI vice-president and the joint secretary – Amitabh Choudhury – would take over the interim roles of president and secretary respectively.
However, while one vice-president – ML Nehru – is 78 years old and over the Lodha Committee’s age cap of 70, the other four – CK Khanna, GK Gangaraju, TC Mathew and Gautam Roy – have all been office-bearers at their state associations for more than nine years, as has the joint secretary Choudhury. According to the interpretation of the Supreme Court’s modification to its order, none of them are eligible to continue as office-bearers at any level.
“By remaining quiet about Thakur and Shirke’s obduracy, the rest of the BCCI has brought this upon themselves that the Supreme Court has provided nine-year disqualification on Tuesday,” a Lodha Committee source said.
Due to the lack of clarity over who was eligible and who was not, the BCCI removed the names of its office-bearers from its website on Wednesday. “On Monday the court said the most senior vice-president and joint secretary would lead the BCCI in interim roles. Now yesterday the court issued another order. There is confusion over whether the remaining (eligible) office bearers can continue,” a senior BCCI official said. “We are not sure if the total of nine years is at state and board level.”
Despite the confusion, however, the daily operations of the BCCI have not been affected much. The chief executive officer Rahul Johri has been ratified by the Supreme Court to lead the board until the panel of administrators is appointed at a hearing on January 19.
On Wednesday, Johri consulted the Lodha Committee regarding the selection meeting for the limited-overs series against England, scheduled for January 6. His concern was about who would convene the meeting in the absence of a board secretary. The Lodha Committee told Johri to convene it himself, and as “an exception,” the meeting would be attended by all five India selectors instead of the recommended number of three.
One of the Lodha Committee’s recommendations was that the selection committee’s strength be reduced from five members to three, but the BCCI had refused to comply and picked a five-member panel at its annual general meeting last September.
Once the panel of administrators to run the BCCI is appointed by the Supreme Court on January 19, the next step for the Lodha Committee would be to see that the state associations conduct fresh elections for office-bearers. The states will then appoint representatives to take part in a special general body meeting at which the BCCI would adopt the new constitution as per the Lodha Committee recommendations. This meeting could happen in March, following which a date for the BCCI elections to pick new administrators will be decided.