The application filed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India to allow Sourav Ganguly and Jay Shah continue as BCCI president and secretary, respectively, is yet to attract the Supreme Court’s attention. Till Saturday, the petition (a copy of which is with Outlook) is yet to get a “diary number”, the first step towards the application being listed and then heard by the judges.
Inevitable as it was, the BCCI finally registered its application online last weekend. Given the importance and urgency of a matter, a petition is given a number “usually within 72 hours” and subsequently listed for hearing. The BCCI application, filed through its treasurer Arun Singh Dhumal, is seeking Supreme Court’s permission to enable Ganguly and Shah continue in their current roles. Both were elected in October last year. Dhumal is BJP minister Anurag Thakur’s brother.
As per the new BCCI constitution, registered after the Supreme Court, on August 9, 2018, approved major recommendations made by the Justice RM Lodha panel, both Shah and Ganguly have to ‘cool off’ for a minimum period of three years since each will be completing six years as an office-bearer in either a state association or the cricket Board. Shah, the son of BJP heavyweight and Union Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah, has ‘officially’ stopped functioning as a BCCI secretary and Ganguly has to relinquish his position by July-end.
Usually, BCCI gets what it wants and the delay in listing the application for hearing has surprised many insiders in proximity of the politics in Indian cricket. “Given the seriousness of the application and the kind of people involved, Supreme Court should have taken it up already. It seems something is amiss,” said a source closely following the matter.
Cooling Off Rejected
In its Annual General Meeting in Mumbai on December 1, 2019, BCCI members, among many things, had unanimously rejected the “cooling off” clause in the new constitution that was registered on August 21, 2018. The BCCI was then run by its CEO Rahul Johri under the direction of the Vinod Rai-led Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators.
The current BCCI application in the Supreme Court is a reflection of that December 1 meeting.
Claiming that BCCI is an “autonomous body” and has the “right to self govern”, the Board has argued that the new constitution was adopted when “there was no elected general body” and prepared by “persons who did not have the advantage and benefit of the ground level experience of functioning of this three tier structure in which the transition of cricket administrators is stage wise which is in the larger interest of the game of cricket.”
The application says: “Any provision which has a direct or an indirect effect of restricting persons with rich and varied experience whereby they have acquired and strengthened the organising capacity, finance generating capacity and administrative skills will be to the detriment of the game of cricket and would, therefore, necessarily be against public interest and national interest as our teams play against teams of all cricket playing countries.”
The BCCI has proposed a rule change to the court. It has said that “a President or Secretary who has served in such position for two consecutive terms of three years each in the BCCI shall not be eligible to contest any further election without completing a cooling off period of three years.”
As per the new and existing constitution, “an office bearer who has held any post for two consecutive terms of three years each either in a state association or in the BCCI (or a combination of both) shall not be eligible to contest any further election without completing a cooling off period of three years”. BCCI clearly hates the ‘combination’ rule.
Delay In Appeal
Despite getting an overwhelming mandate to challenge the new constitution in December, it is not clear why BCCI took almost six months to file an application to extend Ganguly and Shah’s tenure.
Interestingly, the BCCI, in its current appeal, mentions of an application filed on April 13, 2020, seeking similar waiver for Ganguly and Shah. However, there is no record of this application as the last Supreme Court order on a BCCI matter was made on December 9, 2019. The BCCI also wants to to “withdraw” this mysterious application that has “errors.”
How seriously the special Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao takes the BCCI application remains to be seen.
Then Additional Solicitor General of India, Justice Rao was part of the Justice Mukul Mudgal panel constituted in February 2014 to probe the 2013 IPL match fixing and betting scandal case filed by Aditya Verma of Cricket Association of Bihar. This case continues to remain the bedrock of all major decisions made on Indian cricket administration.