Heat Over Cooling-Off Clause Subsides as BCCI Savours 'Win' in Supreme Court

The SC on Wednesday allowed the BCCI to amend the mandatory cooling-off clause for the board's administrators.

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Hours after the Supreme Court, on Wednesday, allowed the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to amend the cooling-off period for its office-bearers, Justice RM Lodha told a national daily, "For cricket administrators, the cooling-off clause was like a snow mountain, which they find very difficult to navigate, so they just wait for the weather to change. This is how it has been happening since 2016, 2018, and now 2022."

The former Chief Justice of India was neither disturbed nor bitter that one of the key clauses in his recommendations in 2016, which saw sweeping changes in the governance of the BCCI, had been overturned by the same authority that had originally approved it.  

He was just being matter-of-fact, and perhaps, as resigned as anyone else that the status quo, which the BCCI had so determinedly pursued, has been restored after a protracted to-and-fro. 

Wednesday's judgment by a two-judge bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Hima Kohli, thus, paves the way for the continuance in office for a second three-year term of incumbent BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah.  

It remains to be seen whether they will retain their posts or if there will be a shake-up at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) expected to be held in October, which might be put off till the conclusion of the T20 World Cup in Australia in mid-November.  


But the decks have been cleared, so to speak, for a return to the old normal, which had characterised the BCCI's functioning for more than 80 years. 

The Lodha Committee, constituted after the 2013 spot-fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League and the conflict-of-interest allegations against the board's administrators as well as players, might feel that its lengthy exercise that advocated perestroika within the corridors of the BCCI has gone in vain.  

It is a sentiment that is bound to be shared by those who believe that the Indian cricket board – inarguably the wealthiest and most powerful sporting body in the country and cricketing body worldwide – is but the domain of certain 'monopolistic' individuals. 


Striking a Balance

Viewed from a more sentient perspective, the relaxation of the cooling-off period has to be recognised as an acknowledgement of the need to balance continuity with the eradication of the dominance of a few of a sport followed and supported by many.  

The measured delineation of state and central tenures is, further, a recognition of the fact that the expertise and experience gained at the state level must be given the opportunity to be applied at a larger scale, where the stakes are much higher and the potential for a greater good that much more feasible. 

While allowing an individual to hold office for a maximum of nine years in a row – but no more than two consecutive three-year terms either at the state associations or the BCCI – Justices Chandrachud and Kohli held that these modifications did not 'take away the rationale' behind the SC having imposed the cooling-off period in the first place, which was to prevent an office-bearer from sustaining vested interests. 

With a few significant riders, Indian cricket has perhaps returned to where it was pre-2013, from an administration standpoint.  

That might suggest that the initial Justice Mudgal probe, followed by the deliberations and recommendations of the Lodha Committee approved in full by the Supreme Court, have been derecognised, though it is worth pointing out that several of the Lodha Committee suggestions remain unaltered and continue to be an important part of the BCCI's new constitution. 

In their collective wisdom, Justices Chandrachud and Kohli found no little merit in the BCCI's contention that the pre-existing cooling-off period was proving to be a big blow to selecting "talented and experienced" personnel to administer the body.  

In effect, it encourages individuals who have delivered the goods at the state level to aspire to contribute likewise to the BCCI too, though by placing a cap on the number of consecutive terms allowed, the core objective of ensuring that no one becomes bigger than the institution or uses his position to further their own cause has been retained.


Clarity on Way Forward

There will, inevitably, be mixed reactions to this latest development, but with one contentious point out of the way, there is absolute clarity on the way forward and it is to be expected that those who sought to benefit from the changes to the cooling-off period will now once more commit whole-heartedly to discharging their responsibilities, which include maintaining India's integrity as a standard-bearing trendsetter, both off and on the field. 

Now that their entreaties for continuity have been upheld at the expense of what Justice Lodha called "the finality of the (earlier) judgment," it is incumbent upon the likes of former India skipper Ganguly and Shah to showcase their tactical and strategic nous, sustain infrastructural and process improvement, ameliorate living conditions of a plethora of superstars from previous eras and essentially reiterate that they will put the money where their mouth is.  


After all, absolute power certainly need not corrupt absolutely. 

The less celebrated but equally far-reaching decision to lift the bar on BCCI office-bearers holding posts in other sports bodies has to be welcomed in the same spirit in which it has been made.  

The cross-pollination of roles and responsibilities across different bodies, when channelised positively, is a win-win for all concerned in a country where top sportspersons don't necessarily restrict their interest and attention to their disciplines alone. 

The BCCI will hail 14 September 2022 as the day when their visions of fighting the just fight were finally realised, but that can't be an end in itself.

If they can use the latest Supreme Court validations as the stepping stone to a better, more inclusive, transparent, and just administration, they will have vindicated the apex court's trust and faith and traversed quite some distance in erasing their reputation as a bunch of self-centred, power-hungry people seeking to further merely their individual interests. 

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  BCCI    Supreme Court   Sourav Ganguly  

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