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Reasons behind the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) not being a Government entity

Introduction

One of the biggest, richest, and most powerful sports regulatory bodies in the world is the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Indian traditional Test cricket has been governed by the BCCI since December 4th, 1928.[1] With the emergence of the Indian Premier League (IPL), a Tweny20 cricket league that has skyrocketed in popularity since its debut, the Indian cricket scenario changed in 2008. The IPL, which generates significant revenue and has increased awareness of Indian cricket abroad, is hence governed by the BCCI.

The BCCI has, however, been under increased scrutiny as a result of recent controversies and corruption scandals. It is evident from conversations with knowledgeable journalists and researchers, that the BCCI needs to undergo considerable changes to better adhere to the principles of good governance. In particular, the BCCI has to address issues with accountability, transparency, handling conflicts of interest, structural issues, and revisions to its policies and procedures.[2] But does it need to become a public body because of the bearing of all the responsibilities which includes the above is what is put to question over here? Also, the main purpose of writing this blog is not to highlight the falsies of the BCCI but to understand if there is a need for the BCCI to be a government entity even if it adheres to all its responsibilities as a governing body of Cricket should be adhering to. It is also worth noting that sports have been transformed into a business for the corporate sector in today’s capitalist society. Certain international and national sports federations, who oversee and regulate various sports, now bear the responsibility of legal regulation. But in the case of cricket of Indian scenario, the BCCI is a private organization with its own set of rules that frequently serves its convenience. This point can be easily counter-defeated since BCCI has been the governing body of Cricket in India since 1928 so unless there are any rules and regulations made against the society or not in the favour of the people at large then BCCI is fully qualified and admissible to control the workings of Cricket in India. This is also not to be forgotten that BCCI has a significant impact on the careers of players, which in turn has an impact on the economy. The BCCI is an independent organization that is not held to account by the general public, athletes, or even the government. It was held in BCCI v. Netaji Cricket Club and Ors.,[3] that  BCCI works with zero transparency which makes it free and not cumbersome in matters relating to decisions of the Council. BCCI has the power to make laws and regulate itself and amend these laws. Even though BCCI is ostensibly a private organization, its many activities demonstrate that it performs public duties. It is pertinent to note here that even if BCCI is a private body and performs public duties like selecting the official teams that represent India at large it does not make us conclude that BCCI should be transformed into a government entity because many organizations perform public functions like giving employment opportunities to the people or the citizens of the Country at large is performing of public duties but that doesn’t make any sense for the entity is a government body. Powers that BCCI holds as a private governing entity of Cricket in India include, among others, selecting a team to represent India in international competitions and disqualifying players and umpires. The Justice Lodha Committee[4] was established in 2016 in the case of BCCI v. Cricket Association of Bihar and Ors.[5] to provide recommendations to the BCCI. The committee thought that as the BCCI now has a monopoly, it should only carry out public duties with the indirect consent of the federal and state governments. The selection of the national and international squad to represent the country on a worldwide front is being done in the public interest, it was noted.

Briefly stated, the Lodha Committee recommended the following:[6]

A- The retirement age will be set at 70. Any administrator who is employed by another athletic association while also being under investigation for a crime, incapable of making a sound judgement or insolvent must be fired. Any officer bearer must serve a minimum of two terms back-to-back.

B- The “One Vote Per State” policy, aims to increase BCCI’s accountability.

C- The term limit for the BCCI President is two years.

D-An autonomous and independent IPL governing body.

E-BCCI officials must reveal their assets to the governing board to ensure that they are not engaged in any gambling.

In all of the above recommendations, there are indeed some important and necessary changes that are needed to be done but the ‘one state one vote’ recommendation for the BCCI should be totally out of consideration as not all states of India are equal in terms of any perspective as there is no comparison between Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh to that of Sikkim or even any north-eastern state in which many countries don’t even play Cricket at that scale. There is also this other recommendation that the IPL should be governed by a separate governing body which is inconsistent and haywire as it is a national-level domestic league of Country India which was started by BCCI itself in 2008. So, what can be ideally done is that under the Indian Premiere League the whole sole of a team franchise should be governed by the franchise that owns a team and the BCCI should not be having a say in that. Other than these changes in the recommendations of the Lodha Committee all other recommendations are beneficial as well as necessary for the BCCI to go in sync making the e-BCCI officials accountable for revealing their assets to the governing board is a significant recommendation for the proper functioning of the Board at large.  

Views of the Apex Court on Lodha Committee Recommendations

In the ruling, it issued on July 18, 2016, in the case of the Board of Control for Cricket in India v Cricket Association of Bihar[7] the Supreme Court mostly accepted all of the suggestions and noted the lack of any grounds for disagreement. However, BCCI showed a great deal of resistance to putting the recommendations into practice and missed the deadlines set by the Apex Court.[8] To better comprehend the ramifications of the reforms, BCCI created a legal panel led by former Supreme Court Judge Markanday Katju and filed an affidavit in Supreme Court in opposition to the report.[9] The recommendations, according to Justice Markanday Katju,[10] are false and the Apex court cannot compel BCCI to follow them.

It was determined in M. P. Varghese v. Mahatma Gandhi University[11] that the definition of “public authority” under Article 12[12] has a far wider connotation than that of “State.” The primary focus of the definition of “State” is the upholding of basic rights. While the right to information is guaranteed by Article 19 of the Indian Constitution[13], the RTI Act aims to establish an effective framework for that right. Since its inception, BCCI has engaged in monopoly-style competition but it is also not to be forgotten that if BCCI is made a government entity it can even then be politically motivating and politics and political leaders may then interfere in the working of the BCCI at large.

Conclusion

In India, cricket is more than just a pastime; it’s practically a religion. The Lodha Committee’s recommendations led to some changes in the domestic league-wide., IPL, including the ownership structure of a few franchises, the addition of a conflict-of-interest clause, limitations on the age of administrators, adherence to the one-person, one-post rule, and ensuring a lag between the conclusion of the IPL and the start of Indian players’ international competitions. Therefore, the BCCI thinks in the public interest, in the interest of fair cricket, and for a fair process of selection of Indian cricket team members, the BCCI should be made transparent, accountable, and answerable to the public but not a “state” under Article 12 of the Constitution of India, 1950[14]. Therefore, seeing the above-highlighted arguments it is believed that BCCI should not be compelled to become a government entity.

Author(s) Name: Gautam Barnwal (Department of Law, University of Calcutta)

References:

[1] ‘What is BCCI’ (Economic Times) <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/definition/bcci> accessed on 25 October 2022

[2] Komal Ghai and Sarah Zipp, “Governance in Indian cricket: Examining the Board of Control for Cricket in India through the good governance framework.” (Taylor and Francis Online, 05 October 2020) <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17430437.2020.1819598?scroll=top&needAccess=true > accessed on 25 October 2022

[3] BCCI v Netaji Cricket Club and Ors (2005) 4 SCC 741

[4] Lodha Committee Report of the Supreme Court Commitee on Reforms in Cricket (2015) <https://gujaratcricketassociation.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Lodha_Committee_Report.pdf> accessed on 25 October 2022

[5] BCCI v Cricket Association of Bihar and Ors. (2017) SCC SC 370.

[6] Middya, Ranojoy, “Lodha Committee on BCCI Reforms- All you need to know!” (IPleaders, 21 August 2021) <https://blog.ipleaders.in/lodha-committee/>  accessed on 25 October 2022

[7]Board of Control for Cricket in India v Cricket Association of Bihar (2015) 3 SCC 251.

[8] Pradeep Magazine, “BCCI showed a great deal of resistance to putting the recommendations into practice and missed the deadlines set by the Apex Court” (Hindustan Times, 27 April 2022) <https://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/no-spin-allowed-bcci-must-follow-lodha-committee-recommendations/story-Z1QV4Fxp8WSARplMZpDMYI.html> accessed 25 October 2022.

[9] “BCCI to file affidavit in Supreme Court on Lodha Report” (The Economic Times, 19 February 2016) <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/sports/bcci-to-file-affidavit-in-supreme-court-on-lodha-report/articleshow/51056142.cms?from=mdr> accessed 25 October 2022.

[10] “Timeline of BCCI v Lodha Committee” (Times of India, 29 November 2017)  <https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/news/timeline-of-bcci-v-lodhacommittee/articleshow/61845064.cms> accessed 25 October 2022.

[11] M. P. Varghese v Mahatma Gandhi University (2007) AIR  Kerala 230.

[12] Constitution of India 1950, art. 12.

[13] Constitution of India 1950, art. 19.

[14] Constitution of India 1950, art. 12.