The adoption of the amendments proposed by the BCCI to its constitution would, if unchallenged, be tantamount to "ridiculing" of the Supreme Court and its endeavour over the past several years to introduce reforms in the richest and most powerful cricket board in the world.
That's the opinion of Gopal Sankaranarayanan, secretary of the RM Lodha Committee, whose recommended reforms were approved by the Supreme Court on July 18, 2016. The Lodha Committee, appointed by the court in 2015, was headed by Lodha, a former Chief Justice of India, along with former Supreme Court Justices RV Raveendran and Ashok Bhan.
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, Sankaranarayanan said he believed the highest court in the country still "had a role to play" in the issue and that the BCCI's proposed changes, if adopted, could be challenged by any member of the public. He did, however, concede that the court itself was partly to blame for gradually "diluting" the reforms it had first approved three years ago.
Sankaranarayanan is the first person closely involved with the drafting of the reforms to react to the BCCI's proposals. Lodha, when contacted by this reporter on Monday, said he had stopped commenting on BCCI matters.
The proposals to change the constitution came to light on Saturday, when the BCCI's new secretary, Jay Shah, circulated the agenda for the board's annual general meeting, to be held on December 1. The constitution, which had been registered in August 2018, had been drafted by the Committee of Administrators (CoA).
I would have of course wished the Supreme Court had not just kept changing its views and diluting the reforms more and more every time a new bench came to look at the matter because that is precisely what has happened
The most radical amendments include altering the rules concerning the cooling-off period for office-bearers, relaxing various disqualification criteria and removing the need for any changes to the constitution to be approved by the Supreme Court.
Adopting of the proposals, Sankaranarayanan said, would mean the reforms had ceased to exist. "If this is permitted to be done and if it remains unchallenged in court and the Supreme Court does not either have a challenge before it or it does not take up suo motu, it will mean ridiculing of the Supreme Court and everything that it did over the years," he said. "It will completely mean going back to square one as far as cricket administration and reforms are concerned. Most of the significant changes would have ceased to exist."
He pointed out that the BCCI was trying to further loosen the reforms, which had already been revisited by various benches of the apex court after the principal judgement in July 2016, delivered by TS Thakur, the then Chief Justice of India. "It suggests that they are almost completely effacing what is left of the reforms after the Supreme Court had stepped in. They feel that there might be some kind of lacuna left behind after the Supreme Court has been looking at stuff for several years.
"They could possibly try and argue that, 'look, the Supreme Court has not barred us from amending our own constitution so we are more than capable of amending it and making all sorts of changes to it'. That is a narrow way of looking at things. They will somehow ensure whatever is left after Supreme Court itself had reversed much of the [original reforms] so that old cliques can continue to operate in a big way."
The amendments will be voted on at the BCCI AGM on December 1 by the general body, comprising elected representatives of the state associations, and need a three-fourth majority to be passed. After that, the board will need the court's approval to alter the constitution to accommodate the amendments.
Sankaranarayanan said regardless of whether the amendments were approved unanimously or not, the court "will have a role to play" even if the BCCI might not believe so. "They are trying to imply that they will no longer need the Supreme Court's imprimatur when it [the board] makes changes [to the constitution]," he said. "It is very clear, the way the Supreme Court has approached this over the years, that any reforms that have come by way of its judgement are full and final. Those changes, which came because of the judgement, cannot be trifled with without the court's consent. Anything the court has dealt with, you will have to go back to the court if you want to make any changes.
"It makes no difference if the amendment is unanimous or third-fourth majority or anything - in my view, the court will have a role because the court had a role all this while. It was specific when it approved the initial reforms [in 2016], then it approved the constitution that was drafted and submitted by the CoA last year."
The upheaval in the BCCI was prompted by then Bihar Cricket Association secretary Aditya Verma's petition in the Supreme Court concerning the 2013 IPL corruption scandal. Sankaranarayanan said that an outsider could once again knock on the court's doors to draw its attention to the BCCI's latest move. "An outsider will definitely have locus standi because that is how it came to the Supreme Court to start with, with the Bihar Cricket Association representative bringing it to the court."
Although there is a feeling the court's intervention has failed to make any impact on the BCCI, which is once again threatening to become an exclusive club, Sankaranarayanan said he thought otherwise because he said cricket was followed by the masses who were "invested" in the sport.
He agreed, though, that the Lodha Committee could have put in place more safeguards to make the reforms more complete and said he believed the court had shot itself in the foot when it revised the 2016 set of reforms. That has allowed the BCCI and the state associations to raise objections. "I would have of course wished the Supreme Court had not just kept changing its views and diluting the reforms more and more every time a new bench came to look at the matter because that is precisely what has happened.
"What we are seeing now as the final version of the constitution that the BCCI wants to amend even further is quite a shadow of what was initially was proposed by the reforms. Small tweaks I can understand, but after a final judgment of the Chief Justice Thakur's bench and a review being dismissed there should never have been an exercise of jurisdiction which allowed further changes, which is what has happened now. The rule of law has been utilised very flexibly, much to the advantage of the BCCI in this case. Let's hope it doesn't see a repeat of that."