Indian cricket does not prosper because of the court’s interventions but because of the body that runs it, the Supreme Court observed on Wednesday, accepting a plea by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)’s for a 12-year term of administrators before a cooling off-period kicks in – an order that will allow cricketing body’s president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah to have longer tenures.
Permitting modifications in the BCCI constitution, the top court ordered that an administrator shall be allowed two consecutive terms of three years each – at both BCCI and state associations –before the cooling-off clause comes into effect. The cooling-off period is for three years during which the person is not supposed to be a part of any governing committee in a cricket association.
The court order will enable Ganguly and Shah to be in BCCI office until 2025. While Ganguly was an office-bearer in the Cricket Association of Bengal, Shah served in the Gujarat Cricket Association before they joined BCCI. Both had completed a combined six-year tenure each in BCCI and state associations and were technically under an “extension” since the Board’s application remained pending before the Supreme Court since May 2020.
On Wednesday, the bench of justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and Hima Kohli noted in its order that the existing clause requiring an office-bearer to enter the cooling-off period after serving six consecutive years either in state association or BCCI or combination of both is “unduly stringent” and needs to be modified since the amendment would not dilute the spirit and object of the cooling-off period.
“So, a total of 12 years at two different levels, and you please cool off. This will be a very balanced approach and will protect the interest of the game as well by warding off any vested interest,” remarked the bench, accepting the suggestions of senior advocate and amicus curiae Maninder Singh, and solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who represented BCCI and the Union government.
At one point, a lawyer appearing for two former state association members objected to the proposed amendment, urging the court not to extend the term to 12 years.
But the bench retorted: “We are not cricketers. But when something is pointed out to us, we must look into it. We have to also see that we are dealing with an autonomous body. We have to give them some play in the joints so long as they are not defeating the purpose of our judgment. Why does Indian cricket prosper? Not because of the intervention of the court but because of the body which runs it.”
The court also allowed some other modifications pleaded by BCCI. These included doing away with the disqualification on the grounds that a BCCI office-bearer cannot hold a post in any other sports body. The bench also modified the court-approved constitution to state that a person shall be disqualified from holding a post in BCCI only after conviction and not after charges were framed by a court of law.
Another clause that stipulated disqualification of “public servants” from being an administrator was also clarified by the top court to hold that the condition shall apply only to ministers and government servants. “Amendments proposed do not detract from the initial object and purpose of the judgment of this court, and hence are accepted,” said the bench in its order.
The court, however, turned down BCCI’s plea to give it a free hand to carry out amendments in its constitution in future. The August 2018 judgment requires BCCI to seek a nod from the court every time it wants to amend a clause.
Mehta, on Wednesday, requested the bench to modify this clause and allow BCCI to make future amendments on its own. But the court refused: “No, no. That we cannot allow at this stage,” it told the SG.
In 2018, BCCI adopted a new constitution, which was finalised post the court’s judgement on the basis of recommendations made by Justice RM Lodha committee.
BCCI approached the top court in May 2020, seeking tenure extension for its president and secretary among a slew of other amendments carried out to the Supreme Court-approved Constitution. Apart from this, the plea seeks more powers for secretary and permission to do away with the requirement of getting the Supreme Court’s nod for giving effect to any amendment to the rules or regulations of BCCI. Most of these modifications were allowed on Wednesday by the top court.
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