Confusion over office term of officials remains despite new constitution

The BCCI has registered a new constitution. The Committee of Administrators (CoA) is finally ready to hand back control of the BCCI the day the elections are conducted, and it hopes this is in three months' time. But the role of the Supreme Court in the matter is not yet over. The most contentious issue the BCCI had with the Lodha reforms, the terms of the office bearer, continues to remain contentious despite the newly registered constitution. The Supreme Court, in its order dated March 24, 2017, seemed to have resolved the confusion around it, but the latest order in August is not as clear.

The Lodha Committee had suggested limiting the tenure of office bearers to three terms of three years each, but had not clarified if that meant three terms at the BCCI and three at his or her home state association, or if it meant three terms in all. In the March 2017 order, the Supreme Court clarified that a person will "not be disqualified" to contest for a BCCI post even if he or she had served nine years in a state. This was repeated in the order dated August 9, 2018, which formed the basis of the new BCCI constitution that has now been registered. The constitution, though, seems to have reintroduced the confusion.

Vinod Rai, the chairman of the CoA, which is mandated to implement the reforms and practically run the BCCI until such time that a general election is held under the new constitution, confirmed that some "people" have approached the court again, asking for clarification on this particular reform. Rai, however, refused to give his or the BCCI's interpretation of the order as the issue is now as good as being subjudice.

"The order of the honourable Supreme Court is exceedingly clear," Rai said. "There is no two ways about that. However, since some people have approached the court, I don't want to give the BCCI interpretation of it. The BCCI doesn't give interpretation to these legal issues. It is for the states to follow them. But the Supreme Court order is exceedingly clear. I don't want to talk about it upfront because this issue has been raised in the court. Let it be clarified by the court, if the court deems it necessary to clarify."

The constitution tackles this issue in section 6, under the topic "election and terms of office bearers". Under 6 (2) and 6 (3), the constitution states that a BCCI office bearer can have three terms of three years each. In 6 (5)(f), it says:

"A personal shall be disqualified from being an office bearer… if he or she has been an office bearer of the BCCI for a cumulative period of 9 years or of a state association for a cumulative period of 9 years."

The August 2018 Supreme Court ruling, however, refers to the March 2017 order, which states directly the opposite. The August 2018 ruling says in point 26:

"The recommendations of the Lodha Committee, as adopted by this Court, have been clarified in two orders dated 20 January 2017 and 24 March 2017. The clarification by this Court is that when an office bearer who completes nine years in any post in the BCCI is disqualified to become an office bearer of the BCCI again. A similar disqualification attaches to a person who has held any post of an office bearer, in a state association for nine years. For the sake of clarity, what is indicated in the order dated 24 March 2017 reads thus:

'21… What has been meant by the clarificatory order is that, if an office bearer has completed nine years in any post in the BCCI, he shall stand disqualified to become an office bearer of the BCCI. Similarly, if a person holds the post of office bearer in any capacity for any state association for nine years, he shall stand disqualified for contesting or holding any post or office of the state association. To avoid any kind of maze, we proceed to state by giving an example. If a person has held the post of office bearer in respect of a state association for a period of nine years, he will not be disqualified to contest for the post of office bearer of the BCCI.'"

In point 34, the order goes on to mention the two, state and BCCI terms, separately, but under a different subhead, "Disqualification", under point 37, the order also goes on to approve the disqualification clause of the new constitution, which also includes the above-mentioned 6 (5)(f).