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Cricket officials are public servants, rules India's Supreme Court

Tariq Engineer

February 1, 2011

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Shashank Manohar addresses the press
The ruling has implications for the BCCI and its officials as well © AFP
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In a ruling that is likely to have widespread repercussions for cricket administration in India, the Supreme Court has upheld a Kerala High Court decision that the officials of the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) are public servants. The court's decision means that officials who are part of a private body, but perform what can be considered a public function, can now be tried under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, which applies only to public servants. It is the first time the courts have taken such a view of sports administrators in India.

A two-justice bench comprising Justice VS Sirpurkar and TS Thakur dismissed an appeal filed by the KCA president, TR Balakrishanan, and secretary, TC Matthew, who had challenged the High Court's decision allowing them to be prosecuted under the act. The judges first heard the case on January 3, before adjourning it for three weeks as the association wanted more time to file additional documents. The case was finally dismissed yesterday, with the judges calling the High Court's decision a 'beautifully crafted judgement'.

Justice M Shashidharan Nambiar, who passed the High Court order, sought to establish whether the officials fall under the definition of public servant as laid out in the act. The KCA had argued that it was a private body similar to a club, and therefore did not come under the purview of the act. In its order, the High Court observed that the KCA had a monopoly on cricket in the state and performed a public duty and a public service, and so was liable to be prosecuted under the act.

"It [the decision] has far reaching consequences," Matthew told ESPNcricinfo. "In sports associations, people may fight, and those who are defeated may go to court. It opens a Pandora's Box. People can take vengeance in vigilance courts. Nothing will progress. Honest people will not come to work for associations like this."

One such association is the BCCI, of which the KCA is a member. The Indian board has consistently held it is a private organisation and not accountable to the public, but the ruling opens the door for anyone to challenge its officials and those of other cricket associations around the country.

The complainant, Balaji Iyengar , a chartered accountant and former Kerala junior cricketer, had filed the original complaint against the KCA in the Vigilance Court two years ago. The court ruled in favour of the KCA, saying its officials were not public servants, but Iyengar challenged the ruling in the High Court.

"So far sports associations in India have had responsibility without accountability," Iyengar said. "Hopefully this will usher in an era of responsibility with accountability."

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

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Posted by kool_Indian on (February 2, 2011, 19:06 GMT)

Thanks for the comment Mr.Sanjay_Dixit - we know that you are part of Rajasthan Cricket Association, really appreciate for explaining the consequences of the judgment! Some people just comment for the heck of it and I dont know why they hate BCCI so much and bring in the ICL example - people should understand that ICL was started by ZEE just because they didnt get the telecast rights of India matches - it wasnt a charity or bring in the talent, they just wanted to cash in the popularity of cricket in India - I rem'ber the head of Zee saying - just because India lost so badly in 2007, he wanted to something for country - if he loves sports and country so much - why doesnt ZEE take up the responsibility of helping the other sports in India which need help very urgently???

Posted by purush_kamal on (February 2, 2011, 7:33 GMT)

If BCCI funds our track and field events infrastructure, hockey, football, things would be great. The money isnt going anywhere. its just cricketers who are eating loads of money from the board and endorsements. Govt should tax the BCCI heavily or BCCI should do something towards contributing to other boards. Right now it is just not being done. Am a cricket fan, but i am concerned about the future of other sports as well.

Posted by Aiyyankar on (February 1, 2011, 21:39 GMT)

The Kerala high court has not relied on the minority view, it is incorrect to state thus, The K HC has relied on para 32 of the Judgement in Zee v/s BCCI which is very much the view of majority.Hence giving wrong information must be avoided. Further it was based on obligatory discharge of public duty that jurisdiction of Prevention of Corruption act has been brought in, and not pecuniary aspects. Hence the impact cannot be limited to KCA or kept away from BCCI, even though they are registered in Tamil Nadu. All corrupt practices must be condemned and merit must be recognised.

Posted by Aiyyankar on (February 1, 2011, 19:00 GMT)

Accountability has to be mantra,else the entire sports system will be eroded by people with selfish motives.It is high time BCCI gets its moorings right and enquire into the serious allegations running into crores, as it has decided to pull up LM for his misdeeds, it cannot ignore similar activities in kerala. The impact of the judgement would be that dishonest people will not come in any more, unlike the response which says honest people wont come in! infact this will bring in systems where merit alone will be recognised, paving way for greater success of sports in the country. If india is to become an economic super power,we must become a sports super power also and for that to happen there has to accountability also. we must all strive to make India an olympic champion in 20 years time and that transformation will happen only if corrupt officials are thrown out and good, honest people come, this is what the judgement will do, truth shall prevail,and is stranger than fiction

Posted by Sanjay_Dixit on (February 1, 2011, 18:07 GMT)

I have gone through the Supreme Court decision. It is only a refusal to exercise jurisdiction under Art. 136 of the Constitution of India without a speaking order. In legal parlance it means that it is a non-speaking order not binding upon any other High Court. The decision, therefore, is applicable only to Kerala and not to any other State. BCCI is registered in Tamil Nadu. Early expression of voyerous glee may be uncalled for. KCA had been receiving some funds from the Govt. and that is the reason for the Kerala High Court's decision not being interfered with. Also, I have read the Kerala High Court decision. It bases itself on the minority decision of Zee Telefilm case and can, therefore be easily distinguished. Not too much to worry about for other Boards yet. This is not to say that the moral of the Judgment should be lost on the Associations. Sports Associaitons should treat themselves as Public Trusts and should function in a transparent manner. Finaancial Regulation is must

Posted by Ravishankara on (February 1, 2011, 17:14 GMT)

Interesting - We should call these guys deemed public servants

Posted by hegde421201 on (February 1, 2011, 12:12 GMT)

A positive decision that will have everlasting progress!

Posted by second_innings on (February 1, 2011, 12:12 GMT)

This is a red letter day for all sports persons in India !!!

"Nothing will progress. Honest people will not come to work for associations like this" -- how funny? Why should honest people be afraid. This will keep away the crooks, hopefully.

This should put an end to the BCCI's double standard of claiming to be the sole body to administer the game in the country on one hand and making a ludicrous statement in the SC (in another case) that the team it selects is a BCCI team, not the Indian team.

The BCCI and other national federations brook no opposition to their authority. The extent to which the BCCI went to crush the ICL was proof of this. If the BCCI wants to enjoy such hegemony in running the game, it should be prepared to be accountable to the fans.

Posted by Percy_Fender on (February 1, 2011, 12:08 GMT)

I am not too sure that this judgement is correct even if it brings in a bit of accountability in Cricket Associations in the country and consequent cheer in most people. While it is true that these associations conduct the cricketing activities in the state to entertain the public, the emoluments of the office bearers does not come from the Treasury of India. They are paid from the funds generated by the clubbing activity around the game of cricket. It is not unlikely that this matter may be referred to a larger bench as it puts all clubs as well into a similar spot of being part of the public domain.

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