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SC Deadline Looms But Reforms Process Still Incomplete

Image for representation.

Image for representation.

The recent judgment may lead to more questions than answers as until an elected body of officials dedicated to administering cricket is in place and in charge

Just under a week remains until each state association of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) through the Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) is expected to be in compliance with the new constitution effective September 20. The constitution, approved for implementation by the Supreme Court is one of the main reforms envisioned in the original decision that shook the very core of the Board and sports administration throughout India.

The August 9 judgment took into account the feedback from across the cricketing ecosystem and made modifications to numerous points that were contested by the associations as un-implementable or misplaced. The opening for feedback and revision of the original 2016 decision while somewhat expected, from a process standpoint, remains a subject of ongoing debate. The fact, however, is that this is likely not the last we’ll see of the Supreme Court’s involvement with administering cricket, nor is it a full and final closure to what has been a tortuous period of administration within what was once the world’s most powerful cricket body. The judgment also leaves open for debate, and perhaps review numerous critical aspects, most important among them, the role and term of the CoA going forward.

The CoA has had a tumultuous time of it, facing resistance from the associations and frequently, somewhat unclear direction from the Court. Its role was to implement the original order based on the recommendations of the Justice Lodha Committee report, but by all accounts, the success in doing so has been limited at best. Instead, there has been a frequent tussle between the CoA and the BCCI officials, which hasn’t really helped the cause. There is a fundamental lack of clarity on what the CoA is to do going forward, and what its tenure and scope really is.

The slot that the CoA has been pushed into right now is that of enforcer and reporter, but the direction on what its exact scope is, remains unclear. And that is a major cog in the efficiency of how cricket is run today. The implementation of the constitution is likely underway, but until every association in the state and UT level is compliant, the role of the CoA and that eventually of the Court remains uncertain. And one wonders if this really is the ideal situation? It probably is not. Amongst all of this, the one critical component basis which cricket is expected to be administered properly is that the elections take place at the earliest. There are still numerous aspects that need to fall into place before we can expect elections to be conducted.

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Uncertainty prevails presently as the issue of tenure limitations from an allocation between state and national roles seems to be somewhat unresolved, as is the transition plan. The CoA is taking decisions on a variety of aspects including the authority to operate bank accounts, and the recent disbanding of the sub-committees despite there being no clear path to elections yet. In a sense, this matter highlights the problem with appointing committees who then nominate an implementation body, in this case, the CoA, who take over the day-to-day operations of already well-oiled machinery. This is why the situation must be addressed, resolved, and the BCCI should be in position to focus on what it does best through its elected officials - govern and administer cricket to resume India’s once dominant position in world cricket.

This judgment is also interesting in that either side will feel both disappointed and optimistic, which could have some significant repercussions. First and foremost, the very fact that the original judgment has in a way been reopened for debate means that an aggrieved party, and there will be many, feels it has another chance to continue to be heard. Since the August 9 judgment, there have already been a series of pleas before the Court including recently that of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association, mostly seeking clarifications or questioning the mandate of the CoA. It is almost certain that the September 20 deadline will not be universally met by the state cricket associations, so the next question which is bound to arise is what will become of the CoA and the elections timeframe if the issue of compliance with the revised constitution or disposing off of pleas is not completed in the near future. If it leads to an extended tenure for the CoA and the prospect of elections becoming even more distant, then another challenge will ensue.

Many of the relooks at the original judgment entail subjective decision-making by the Court including the reinstatement as full members of three associations each in Maharashtra and Gujarat due to a variety of reasons. This decision, while in all likelihood the correct one, does still open up the subjectivity component of each aspect of the original judgment with a chance of further appeals springing up. Again, the main issue here is that essentially it is left to the Supreme Court to issue clarifications or decide whether or not certain appeals are frivolous or have merit. And from an efficiency or necessity aspect, this really is not ideal. Especially given that pendency is a major issue in Indian courts, and the fact that any confusion, stalemate or clarification hinges on the Supreme Court, hearing the issue and then opining on it is worrying for the future of cricket administration. The very fact that the Supreme Court has had to have over 100 hearings on cricket-related issues seems like a mismatch in the first place in terms of priority and need.

The questions, like the complications, are likely to continue unabated, at least for a while. And the micro-management by either side or the tiffs between the CoA and the administration will further exacerbate an already prickly situation. The way forward, for now, seems uncertain. Given how all of this has unfolded, to expect another order or direction from the Court to be conclusive both in scope and perception may be too much to ask. And that essentially is why the recent judgment may lead to more questions than answers as until an elected body of officials dedicated to administering cricket is in place and in charge.

(The author is a sports, law, and governance specialist and author of “Not out! The incredible story of the Indian Premier League.” Views are personal.)