Conflict of interest & a few shades of grey

While the rule forbidding individuals from occupying multiple posts is for fair governance, experts feel certain aspects need a rethink

Published: 08th August 2019 08:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th August 2019 08:03 AM   |  A+A-

Rahul Dravid

Rahul Dravid (File | AP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: “New fashion in indian cricket .....conflict of interest ....Best way to remain in news ...god help indian cricket.” Sourav Ganguly’s tweet decrying the rule that has rocked the BCCI has found sympathisers. Harbhajan Singh joined him on Wednesday and there are several who think this will create more problems than solving the existing ones.

ALSO READ | Ganguly, Harbhajan irked by conflict of interest notice to Dravid

Rule No 38 in the new BCCI constitution — framed as per a Supreme Court order based on recommendations of the Lodha commission — deals with conflict of interest. It’s long and at present, Section 4 of it is causing headlines. Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman to Rahul Dravid, some of the biggest names of Indian cricket have been pulled up by the ethics officer following charges of violation of this rule which reads as following:

“It is clarified that no individual can occupy more than one of the following posts at a single point of time except where prescribed under these rules: a) Player (current) b) Selector or member of cricket committee c) Team official d) Commentator e) Match official f) Administrator/office-bearer g) Electoral officer h) Ombudsman and ethics officer i) Auditor j) And person in governance, management or employment of a franchise k) Member of a standing committee l) CEO & managers m) Office-bearer of a member n) Service provider o) Contractual entity p) Owner of a cricket academy.”

While Ganguly is a violator for wearing multiple hats — he is an administrator, commentator and involved with an IPL franchise — there is a school of thought of the opinion that the rule is too strict at times. Advocating a more practical approach, they say that sometimes, things need to be judged on a case to case basis instead of applying rules universally.

“There is need for a relook and amend it according to the sporting structure rather than what can be called the ideal structure. For example, academies are run by former players. If associations want to utilise their services, they will be in a position of conflict. One can’t use them in any other capacity if this rule is followed,” said lawyer Vidushpat Singhania, who had assisted the Mudgal commission that probed the IPL scandal in 2013.

“Looking at the practical sides, I think we need to see if the individual concerned is crossing a certain legal threshold while discharging multiple duties. Maybe a written undertaking of what he can and can’t do will be needed. It can be reviewed if he or she is in conflict after that. There is a need to look at things on a case to case basis,” said Singhania.

The counter argument is that rules are meant to be obeyed. Sanjeev Gupta, whose petitions have landed the Fab Four of Indian cricket in trouble, is following this line.

“Cricket is not above law. The law is above cricket. I don’t have any personal vendetta,” he says. “And if Ganguly and others are having problems about this, why are they not approaching the court for repealing those verdicts (against them).”

Not that the BCCI-affiliated units can question this, but they think relaxations can be made keeping in mind the practical sides.

“Let’s not go by the letter of the law all the time. For example, I’m a state unit head and I own a five-star hotel, where the state teams stay at a heavily discounted rate. Am I reducing expenses of the association or violating conflict rule? These are things that should be considered,” said a state unit secretary.

In reality, this is complex because relaxing the rule for one may lead to clamours that why not for someone else! It is also possible that trivial matters might be brought up and conflict discovered in places where it is only academic. Other than doing some good, this rule also has the potential to destabilise a lot of things. One has to wait and see what unfolds.

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