India news January 4, 2016

Lodha panel recommends severe BCCI shake-up

ESPNcricinfo staff

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Joshi: Potentially game-changing recommendations

The Lodha committee appointed by the Supreme Court has recommended a complete overhaul of Indian cricket, from the very top down to the grassroots level and affecting every stakeholder. Its report, presented to the court and made public today, covers every aspect of the game with special focus on the BCCI's administrative and governance structures and the issue of transparency.

The most important set of recommendations aims at transforming the entire power structure in the board. It has changed the BCCI's electorate to one association per state - some states have three - and removed the vote from associations without territorial definitions (e.g., Railways and Services).

Most significantly, it has suggested clear and stringent eligibility criteria for the board's office-bearers and set limits to their time in office. Ministers and bureaucrats will not be allowed to hold positions on the board, nor will those holding positions in their state associations or those above 70 years of age. That could rule out a host of current office-bearers.

There will now be five elected office-bearers - president, secretary, one vice-president instead of the current five, treasurer and joint secretary - and they will serve a maximum of three terms of nine years each across positions. Also, they will not be able to serve two consecutive terms - each must be broken by a "cooling-off" period. And the president's powers have also been curbed: he no longer has an additional vote at meetings, nor does he have a say in team selection.

Further clipping the current set-up's wings, Justice Lodha's report has replaced the Working Committee, the BCCI's highest decision-making body, with a nine-member Apex Council, which will include representatives from the players' community - including one woman. There will also be a nominee of the Comptroller and Auditor General, presumably to keep an eye on how the board's vast resources are being utilised.

There's also a big push for transparency, with the recommended appointment of three independent officials - an ombudsman, an ethics officer and an election officer - to look into the three contentious areas within the BCCI: conflict of interest, dispute resolution and election processes. It also set high eligibility criteria for each, to ensure their independence.

Given the scope of these changes, the question arises whether the proposals would be binding upon the BCCI. Speaking to the media, Lodha gave an indirect response, saying the panel's objective was to finish the task at hand. "This is a committee appointed by the Supreme Court of India. The highest court of the land has appointed the committee. The brief was given to us and we have on completion of the brief handed the report to the Supreme Court. The rest we don't decide because our task is over."

However, sources close to the committee feel the BCCI has no option but to implement it. "This is something they should have done on their own. They haven't done it. If these reforms have to start, it starts with the BCCI finally now based on what Manohar, when he took over as BCCI president, when he said we will implement the Lodha Committee report in the full. The first reform would be for them sticking to the report otherwise the court would force them to," an official privy to the talks between the committee and Manohar said.

The BCCI did not formally react to the contents of the report and it is not clear whether it would challenge it in court. While top board officials closed ranks, the BCCI appears to have been particularly stung by the proposals to bring it under the ambit of the RTI, to bar ministers and bureaucrats from holding office and introduce the one-state, one-vote formula.

The BCCI's legal committee chairman PS Raman had told ESPNcricinfo a few days ago that the recommendations wouldn't be binding, and it is that line the board's officials sought refuge in. It is believed that Manohar and Thakur have asked to meet with Raman during the weekend to discuss the recommendations in detail.

One board official told ESPNcricinfo that a partial implementation of the recommendations was possible, too. "The order says clearly that these recommendations are not binding. But we will study them, if we think anything needs to be done we will do it."

Lodha said that it was not for him to respond to whether the BCCI could challenge the committee's resolutions. "Now this is in public domain. You will have deliberations. As I told you there will be multiple responses. And the Supreme Court is there. We are not suggesting the course of action on this," Lodha said.

The panel - comprising Lodha, a retired Chief Justice of India, and retired Supreme Court judges, Ashok Bhan and R Raveendran - was formed in January 2015 to determine appropriate punishments for Raj Kundra, Gurunath Meiyappan and their respective franchises; decide on Raman's role in the IPL 2013 scandal, and propose changes to the BCCI's functioning to streamline its functions and prevent sporting fraud and conflict of interest.

In July 2015, it delivered on its first task, suspending India Cements and Jaipur IPL, the owners of the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals franchises, for a period of two years, and handing life bans to Meiyappan and Kundra against any involvement in cricket matches.

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