Do ‘Conflict of Interest’ Claims Against Sachin & VVS Hold Ground?

Indian cricket legends Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman are currently involved in an off-field controversy that many would argue ‘has come out of nowhere’.

Complaints of conflict of interest have been filed with the BCCI regarding the two former players holding posts in IPL franchises and also being a part of the board’s Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC).

Ahead of their 14 May hearing, here’s a look at how the roles they’ve held for the last few years have suddenly become a bone of contention, after allegations of them using their positions unjustly emerged.

What Are The Allegations?

On 24 May 2019, Mumbai Indians mentor Sachin Tendulkar and his Sunrisers Hyderabad counterpart VVS Laxman were issued notices by BCCI Ombudsman D K Jain for alleged 'conflict of interest' in their involvement with Indian Premier League teams as well as being a part of the still existing Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) of the BCCI.

Jain asked both Tendulkar and Laxman to send their responses by 28 April and also asked the BCCI to file its response in the matter.

In the notice, Jain wrote: "A complaint has been received by the Ethics Officer of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) under Article 39 of the Rules and Regulations of the BCCI, regarding certain acts, allegedly constituting as 'conflict of interest' on your part.

"You may file your written response to the accompanying complaint, supported by duly executed affidavit, on or before 28 April 2019, with the office of the Ethics Officer, BCCI, Mumbai, for further proceedings in the matter.”

Are They The Only Ones?

The third member of the Cricket Advisory Committee, Sourav Ganguly, too saw a complaint of Conflict of Interest being filed against him. The Delhi Capitals advisor in fact not only is part of the CAC but also holds an administrative role in the BCCI, as the President of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB).

Following the complaint filed after his appointment in the Delhi Capitals support staff this March, Ganguly said he was willing to resign from the Cricket Advisory Committee. He, however, also clarified that he had taken up the position in the IPL franchise after consulting with senior members of the BCCI, including the COA.

Ganguly met with the Ombudsmen and the complainants on 20 April. The verdict of the three-and-half-hour long discussion has not been released yet.

Speaking after the meeting, Jain said: "Matter is sub-judice. I have heard both the parties as well as the BCCI and will soon give my order. However, since hearing is over as per principles of natural justice, both parties can give their written submissions before the final order is pronounced."

Who Filed the Complaints?

Three cricket fans from West Bengal – Bhaswati Shantua, Ranjit Seal and Abhijeet Mukherjee – had questioned Ganguly's position as CAB chief while he is advisor of the Delhi Capitals.

Tendulkar and Laxman were served notices after Sanjeev Gupta, a life member of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association, filed a complaint alleging that like Ganguly, the other two members of the CAC were also violating the BCCI's conflict of interest rules.

In his email to Jain, Gupta had alleged that Tendulkar and Laxman breached Rule 38 of the BCCI Constitution.

"Nobody can evade by blatantly violating the Lodha reforms/Honorable Supreme Court verdict and the BCCI Constitution Rule 38 on the plea of being 'advisor' and 'honorary'. In Rule 38 (4), there are many posts which are honorary [but] that does not mean that those post holders can hold more than one post at a time on the plea of being 'honorary'," Gupta had written.

What's the ‘Conflict’?

Following controversies in the past where cricketers (past and present) and administers held multiple roles in companies and teams, the Lodha Committee introduced the Conflict of Interest guidelines which are soon to become part of the BCCI constitution.

The guidelines stipulate that a person cannot be involved in Indian cricket in more than one role. Therefore, Rahul Dravid stepped down as the coach of Delhi Capitals when he was made the coach of the Indian Under-19 and India A teams. Also, in a similar fashion, Sunil Gavaskar stepped down from his player management company in order to continue this role as a TV commentator.

The complainants now are citing the same rule to say Sachin, Laxman and Ganguly cannot be allowed to hold positions in IPL teams and also be part of the CAC, a committee that last convened in 2017 for the appointment of the Indian men’s coach.

The CAC in fact was formed in 2015 under then BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya with Sachin, Sourav and Laxman roped in to carry forward work that was expected to work towards the betterment of Indian cricket. However, apart from the appointment of Ravi Shastri, the CAC has not been called forward to carry out any other task.

What Sachin and Laxman Have Said

Sachin Tendulkar wrote to the BCCI Ombudsman explaining that his role in the Mumbai IPL franchise was an honorary one and he has not been receiving any salary for his duties.

In the letter to the Ombudsman, Tendulkar's lawyer wrote: "The Noticee has received no pecuniary benefit/compensation from the Mumbai Indians IPL Franchise in his capacity as the Mumbai Indians 'ICON' since his retirement, and is certainly not employed with the Franchise in any capacity.

"He does not occupy any position, nor has he taken any decision (including selection of team players) which could qualify as being in governance or management of the Franchise. Accordingly, there is no conflict of interest, either under the BCCI Rules or otherwise.”

File photo of Sachin Tendulkar (L), VVS Laxman (C) and Sourav Ganguly (R) who are members of the BCCI’s CAC (Cricket Advisory Committee)

In his reply to the notice, VVS Laxman put the onus on the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) saying he had joined the CAC to serve Indian cricket and not to get dragged into such a controversy.

"It will be worthwhile to note that the reason I agreed to be a member (of the CAC) was because of the various inputs we were originally tasked with contributing towards the sustained growth of Indian cricket. The opportunity to be involved meaningfully in India's climb towards becoming a cricketing superpower post retirement was privilege enough for me to turn down the offer of remuneration of being a part of CAC.

"The allegation of the complainants are baseless as we are in no manner selectors of either players or coaches and CAC is not a permanent body," his mail read.

Laxman also complained about the lack of communication from the CoA regarding the CAC’s functioning and added that the trio weren't even informed whether the committee still even existed.

"On 7 December 2018, we had written to the Committee of Administrators requesting them to clarify the scope of our role and responsibilities. To this date, there has been no reply. Since no tenure had been mentioned in the letter of intent issued in 2015, it was only reasonable to expect some communication on whether the CAC was still in existence," he wrote.

(With agency inputs)

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