Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha may be wondering today whether he did the right thing in suggesting sweeping reforms in India’s cricket administration in the light of the Supreme Court’s willingness to dilute its foundational clause, the cooling-off break.
The court on Thursday, while reserving its final order on the BCCI’s constitution, gave enough indications that they are willing to take a re-look at this “contentious” recommendation that makes it mandatory for an administrator to have a three-year cooling-off period before he can contest a post again. It also caps the total number of years a person can be an office-bearer to 18 years. By saying that they are willing to take a re-look at these clauses and the cooling-off period may apply only in case someone contests for the same post again, what it effectively means is that if a person has been a president, he can contest for a secretary’s post without having to wait for three years.
When the Lodha panel had made these and other recommendations like putting an age cap of 70 years on the administrators, it was only trying to ensure that the vice-like grip some powerful members had over the board is broken. It wanted to ensure a more democratic set-up where transparent governance and not individuals with financial and political clout matter.
Though cynical and hardened political analysts felt that the judiciary was exceeding its brief, comfortable as they may have been with the status quo, there were many idealists who saw great signs of sports bodies being forced to reform for the good of the game. Among the many disquieting signs that nothing is going to change, were the elections to the Delhi state unit. Rajat Sharma, owner of a popular TV channel and a close friend of BJP leader Arun Jaitley, suddenly discovered his love for cricket and was elected president, through a “legitimate” election that took place without proxies being used.
His team includes many close relatives of former office-bearers who were disqualified from contesting. Rajat, whose cricketing connections were sarcastically put to his “fielding skills” by his opponents, has shown the way to all board members how to circumvent the new clauses. In the DDCA it is business as usual, Lodha recommendations notwithstanding.
Also make note of the fact that the Delhi elections were supervised by a judge, who did not feel it necessary to wait for the final order of the Supreme Court on the BCCI constitution. Though there were protests from the committee of administrators as they felt the Delhi elections could not be held before the new constitution comes into place, the Supreme Court let things pass. However, it made it clear henceforth no other state unit will hold elections before the new constitution is in place. As written in an earlier column, the Delhi model is a template for the other state units to follow, where the court orders have been followed in letter but flouted in spirit.
If the Supreme Court now does away with the cooling-off period as well, there probably will be no need for the powerful to hide behind their relatives to capture power in the board. Justice Lodha and his co-panelists may be feeling cheated and wondering what a waste of time and money it was to get into this fruitless exercise. They may do well to remember these words from Karl Marx that “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”