When you see photographs of a former Chief Justice of India on the sports pages, it is a clear sign that judicial overreach has reached a new high in our country. From dictating the age and size of diesel cars, to the age of retirement of Cricket Board officials, to prescribing what entrance exams should be held for medical colleges, the wise men of our judiciary are omnipresent. Our judges respect no boundaries between the roles of executive and the roles of the judiciary: name any field and the judiciary has the expertise and the wisdom to reform it.
The latest example is the Lodha Committee report on the BCCI (Board of Cricket Control in India). The two Supreme Court judges looking into the BCCI`s objections to the Lodha Committee recommendations, actually said that BCCI had done nothing for cricket! This incredible statement was aimed at the best run sports body in the country, one which has taken the Indian team to the very top in world cricket in different formats. This hasn`t just happened by accident: talent scouts have gone all over the country, coaching camps have been organised, the National Cricket Academy nurtures young cricketers, under 19 teams tour overseas, ‘A’ team tours give experience to future India stars… It`s a long list which is most impressive. In addition, cricketers are very well paid, and payment is not made just to cricketers in the current national team, but past players have also been given handsome rewards for their national service. Ranji Trophy players have not been left out either: in fact, they now get paid quite well by most standards.
This is possible because the BCCI earned a revenue of over Rupees 1200 crore last year with a profit of over 220 crore. That makes it the richest cricket body in the world by far. Yet the Lodha Committee has suggested drastic restructuring of its organisation and the Supreme Court has asked Rajendra Mal Lodha himself to monitor this restructuring. This is normally done for sick companies, ones which are under BIFR, not for companies doing well. How many entities in the country make such a large profit? Does this profit happen by accident, or because BCCI is extremely well run?
One of the reasons that the Cricket Board functions efficiently is that it is free from government control. So what does Lodha do? It makes it mandatory for CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) to audit its finances, both at the centre and state levels. As we have seen in the past, CAG chiefs like Vinod Rai have let their power go to their head, and like in the 2G scam, have given such inflated figures of notional losses as to beggar belief. Have no illusion about this: to have CAG around to inspect your accounts is to cut off the flexibility and instant decision-making abilities so essential to running an efficient organization. Ignoring that, Lodha and the Supreme Court, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to introduce bureaucratic red tape in BCCI`S functioning.
Why was the Lodha Committee formed in the first place? It was an off-shoot of the Justice Mudgal Committee, which was formed to look into allegations of betting by IPL franchise owners and spot-fixing by cricketers. Was this a matter for judicial interference? It really was a matter for the cricket administration to look into and fix, instead of which the judiciary did its usual over-reach. Not content with that, it decided to form another committee to reform a body which didn`t need reforming. Since we accept judicial overreach in so many aspects of national life, even this would have been all right if the Lodha Committee recommendations had been just that,recommendations. But the Supreme Court has made them, instead, into judicial orders!
Its headline grabbing order is to debar politicians and bureaucrats from holding positions in BCCI or in state cricket bodies. Given the general national feeling about pols and babus (as the media calls them now), this at first sounds like a good thing, except for the general principle of class discrimination: why should you debar particular professions as a whole? Cricket bodies have politicians because they wield power and can get things done. As for bureaucrats, once they are out of the bureaucratic structure, they bring experience and administrative skills which are excellent. Note how retired IAS officers are sought after by large private sector corporations for important positions.
As for limiting the age of office bearers to 70, and deciding on the general principle of one man-one post, these sound like good recommendations. But why should they be made mandatory by court order? There are rules which could have been, and possibly should have been, made by the organisation itself, not by an outside body which will later have no responsibility for the organisation`s functioning.
One of the worst recommendations of the Lodha Committee, now made mandatory by the Supreme Court, is the one state-one vote rule. Cricket history in India going back over a century, has teams participating in the Ranji Trophy from the Railways and the Services. They have now been made Associate Members. Sticking to its strict ‘geographical territory’ criterion, teams like Bombay, Baroda, Saurashtra and others, will now be wiped out. Considering that Bombay has won the Ranji Trophy more often than any team in its history, isn`t this completely unjust? Do Lodha and the Supreme Court not respect the history of the game?
Not even the most ardent supporter of cricket and BCCI will make the case that the organisation did not need reforms. People like N Srinivasan have blatantly flouted all ethical norms when as President of BCCI, the body which runs IPL, can own an IPL franchise himself. Powerful cricket satraps have used their clout to schedule important cricket matches in their own states, or have given them a disproportionate amount of money from the central kitty. These needed reform, for sure, but the Lodha Committee, and the Supreme Court, have cruelly thrown the baby out with the bath water.