BCCI seeks SC nod for watering down cooling-off, conflict clauses in its constitution

Shamik Chakrabarty
The proposed amendments, if approved, will allow Sourav Ganguly to helm the cricket board for six years at a stretch. (PTI)

BCCI has put the proposed amendments to its constitution – including the watering down of the clauses about the cooling-off period and conflict of interest - on hold, deciding to seek clarification from the Supreme Court before going ahead. The decision was taken at the cricket board’s 88th Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Mumbai on Sunday. The next court hearing on BCCI matters is listed for Tuesday.

Keeping in mind the conflict-of-interest issue, the AGM also deferred the formation of the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC), authorised to appoint all cricket committees including selection committees. The matter is already before the apex court, as a plea has been made to reconsider the ‘rigidity’ of the clause. BCCI office-bearers will also seek further clarification from the board’s ombudsman-cum-ethics officer Justice (Retd) DK Jain on the issue before forming the CAC. With the existing conflict-of-interest clause, BCCI is finding it difficult to convince former cricketers of highest repute to be part of the CAC.

The AGM notice had incorporated some major amendments to the BCCI constitution, including the watering down of the cooling-off clause, changes in disqualification criteria, and curbing the chief executive’s powers. According to an office-bearer of a South Zone state association who attended the meeting, the proposed amendments were discussed and received verbal consent from all 38 members. But as the existing BCCI constitution has the apex court’s seal, the house decided to take the matter before the court before putting the changes into effect.

“At the end of the day, the court will decide,” BCCI president Sourav Ganguly said at the press conference after the AGM. He added: “The (Lodha reforms) we have adopted, otherwise we wouldn’t be compliant. The new elections wouldn’t have happened, and the state (association) elections, had the state associations not adopted it.”

BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal spoke about seeking a way forward from the Supreme Court. “It’s on hold. We have sought clarification. There were some media reports that we want some sweeping changes. There’s some clarification that we have sought that will give us the way forward.”

The proposed amendments, if approved, will allow Ganguly to helm the cricket board for six years at a stretch. As per the existing constitution, he will have to go for a mandatory three-year cooling-off period after July next year. The BCCI constitution stipulates that an office-bearer will have to step down after serving for six years either consecutively at the state association or BCCI, or a combination of both. The proposed change has called for separating the cooling-off period for state associations and BCCI. The BCCI constitution allows the provision of amending the Rules and Regulations “by a 3/4th majority of the members present” at the AGM or a Special General Meeting (SGM). But to put them into effect, the Supreme Court’s approval is required. “Any such amendment will not be given effect without leave of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.”

For any further changes in the future, the BCCI has sought an amendment to the constitution which, if approved, will not require the court’s intervention.

CAC and the conflict roadblock

The CAC needs to have former cricketers of highest repute and ahead of the AGM, the BCCI had held informal discussions with some ex-cricketers. The response was lukewarm, as a cricket board official told this paper: “Whatever informal discussion we have had, nobody is interested for a one-day job by forgoing their livelihood.” Today Ganguly said: “We will form the CAC. We met the Hon’ble (Justice) DK Jain yesterday over the conflict-of-interest issue and we will appoint the CAC... We needed to get proper clarity from him (Jain) on what is conflict and what is not conflict. Because we don’t want to appoint someone and then he gets cancelled, like it has happened with us the past two times and Kapil Dev and his team.”

The existing conflict of interest clause bars CAC members from having multiple cricketing roles. This was the reason why Sachin Tendulkar recused himself from the original CAC, while Ganguly and VVS Laxman were found to be in conflict of interest by the BCCI ethics officer. Even Kapil Dev, Anshuman Gaekwad and Shantha Rangaswamy, who were part of the ad-hoc CAC and appointed head coaches for the Indian women’s and men’s teams, had to resign when conflict-of-interest allegations were levelled against them.

Ganguly clarified that CAC members serve the BCCI in a honorary capacity.

Prasad’s term ends

The AGM also marked the end of MSK Prasad’s stint as chief selector. He, and Sarandeep Singh have completed four years and will have to quit. “Tenures are finished. You cannot go beyond your tenure and all of them don’t finish, so majority of them stay and I think it shouldn’t be a problem,” Ganguly said. The BCCI president also aimed a thinly-veiled dig at the ICC. “As you must have heard, ICC now wants tournaments every year. (But) that doesn’t mean selectors continue forever. We will have a tenure (for the selectors), and we will (stick) to the tenure.”

Although the BCCI constitution allows a five-year term for the selectors, this paper understands that the Board under its present dispensation is mulling on reducing it to four. As for the Prasad-led committee, Ganguly opined that they “have done a good job”.

Secy for ICC’s CEC

BCCI members unanimously decided that secretary Jay Shah will henceforth represent the cricket board at the ICC’s Chief Executives' Committee (CEC). For the last three years, BCCI chief executive Rahul Johri had been India’s representative at the CEC.

“... the rule is (that) the secretary goes. And the ICC (Board) representative we will decide in a couple of days’ time,” Ganguly said. One of the proposed amendments has asked for allowing persons aged 70 years and above to be eligible to represent the BCCI at the ICC Board.

Azhar’s dues cleared

BCCI also decided to clear Mohammad Azharuddin’s dues, amounting approximately to Rs 2 crore, including the one-time benefit given to former cricketers. The Board had withheld his dues after Azhar was banned for life for his alleged involvement in the match-fixing scandal at the turn of the century. The former India captain and current Hyderabad Cricket Association president has returned to the BCCI fold after the court exonerated him.

IPL staging fee increased

The BCCI also decided to increase the staging fee for IPL matches from Rs 60 lakh to Rs 1 crore. State associations’ subsidy has been hiked from Rs 70 crore to Rs 100 crore. With regard to first-class cricket, the members unanimously agreed that state associations should be encouraged to hand contracts to domestic first-class cricketers.

Members, staff told to hand over phones

To prevent any information leaks during board meetings, the BCCI’s new body, headed by Sourav Ganguly and Jay Shah, asked its members to hand over their phones ahead of the 88th Annual General Body Meeting in Mumbai. “It was the first time we were told to keep the mobile phones aside. We all handed our phones before the AGM. Only after the meeting the phones were given back, probably, they didn't want any information leak while the meeting is on. Even the staff, catering and other people in the room were asked to give away their phones,” a member, who attended the meeting, told this newspaper.

Not just the members but also the staff including the catering personnel in the room were asked to walk in without mobile phones.