The BCCI has filed a second petition in the Supreme Court of India, following the one in December last year, seeking approval for several radical amendments recommended at its annual general meeting last year. Among them is a proposal to allow president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah to continue in their posts until 2025, effectively bypassing the mandated cooling-off period.
The petition was filed on April 21* after the original petition was not given a hearing; the court is yet take up the matter. The amendments, if accepted, stand to wipe out the major reforms the court itself had mandated in August 2018 as part of the board's new constitution drafted on the back of the recommendations made by the RM Lodha Committee.
In its April petition, the BCCI has told the court that the three-year cooling-off period for an office-bearer following a six-year tenure is an eligibility criteria necessary only to contest the elections. Once elected, the BCCI said, the office-bearer could continue to stay in the position for six years at one place - board or state association - before serving the cooling-off period.
The other amendments that were passed by the BCCI general body unanimously on December 1 last year included modifying the disqualification criteria, giving unprecedented powers to the BCCI secretary, and stopping the court from having any say if the board wants to alter the constitution.
The BCCI is anxious because, if the court doesn't see the issue the same way, Ganguly and Shah must enter their cooling-off periods soon. The two of them earned the senior-most posts in the board as part of the new administration on October 23 last year. But they had just about ten months in the roles because, as per the BCCI's constitution, an office-bearer could only serve two consecutive terms (six years) separately at the state association or the board or a combination of both.
Ganguly's term ends this July, as he started as secretary at the Cricket Association of Bengal in 2014, following which he became the association's president after the death of Jagmohan Dalmiya in 2015, and was re-elected in September 2019 before moving to the BCCI.
As for Shah, he was elected as the joint secretary of the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) in 2014. The internal records of the GCA suggest that Shah's tenure started on September 8, 2013. There is no clarity over Shah's tenure at BCCI, though.
Last week, after a report in Outlook suggested that Shah had approached the court seeking an extension as BCCI secretary after finishing six years as an officer-bearer earlier this month, ESPNcricinfo contacted him over email - on May 19 - to confirm the details. Shah has not acknowledged it yet.
Meanwhile, Shah has been part of key BCCI meetings and was also part of the last week's call with Cricket South Africa, which gave a cautious nod to supporting Ganguly if he were to contest for the ICC chairman's position, which will be vacated by Shashank Manohar at the ICC's annual conference, scheduled for July.
Incidentally, Shah did not sign the BCCI's last media release [the board's response to the Indian government allowing stadia to open for training without crowds], issued on May 17. The media release was authorised by Arun Dhumal, the board's treasurer. And it was Dhumal again who signed the BCCI's April petition to the court.
"It is submitted that the provision contained in Rule 6.4 (cooling-off period) applies to the eligibility to contest the election and not continuance of an elected person who is already elected before the commencement of disqualification, the general body has, in its wisdom, thought it necessary to amend the said provision so as to ensure that in the fresh elections after 3 years, the BCCI is not deprived of the experience gained by the individuals in the State Association," the BCCI said in the petition, accessed by ESPNcricinfo.
To support its case, the BCCI also attached the minutes of the AGM where the amendments were adopted. On the cooling-off period, the BCCI said all the members [state associations] felt the three-year break was "creating an obstruction in selection of talented and experienced hands, but also affects the continuity of the individual's ability to serve in administration unnecessarily". All members, the board said, agreed that both the president and the secretary should serve for six years at one place before starting the cooling-off period.
"It is respectfully submitted that this amendment is made preserving the spirit of the directions issued by this Hon'ble Court in as much as it is ensured that if any office bearer of the BCCI completes 6 years as an office bearer of the BCCI, he stands disqualified," the BCCI said.
BCCI points fingers at Committee of Administrators again
The Committee of Administrators (CoA), appointed in 2017 to supervise the functioning of the BCCI, had failed to understand how the board functions, the BCCI argued.
The BCCI told the court that cricket in India was regulated through a "three-tier" pyramidal structure: office bearers starting at district level, moving to the state association, before progressing to the board itself. "By the very nature of this three-tier structure, a person necessarily passes through many terms in other two tiers before he is experienced to be able to effectively contribute in BCCI in the larger national interest."
The CoA had prepared the draft constitution in 2018, and had tweaked the board's original constitution by including the Lodha recommendations, which the court had approved first in 2016 before certain reforms were revised.
"The draft (constitution) was prepared by the persons who did not have the advantage and benefit of the ground level experience of functioning of this three tier structure in which the transition of cricket administrators is stage wise which is in the larger interest of the game of cricket," the BCCI said in its latest petition. "Any provision which has a direct or an indirect effect of restricting persons with rich and varied experience whereby they have acquired and strengthened the organising capacity, finance generating capacity and administrative skills will be to the detriment of the game of cricket and would, therefore, necessarily be against public interest and national interest as our teams play against teams of all cricket playing countries."
Altering the constitution: Not "practical" to approach court every time
Another key amendment being sought by the BCCI is to make itself the binding authority if the board's constitution needs tweaks. In December, the general body approved the amendment that proposed the BCCI constitution can be "repealed, added to, amended or altered" by the three-fourth majority of elected and eligible representatives, with the court having no role in the process.
In the AGM, the BCCI stated that the general body felt the members' "autonomy and right to seek legitimate changes" was being "restricted" and an approval from the court every time was "not practical". But the BCCI said in the April petition that it would await the final order of the court before making the said amendment formal.
*1615 GMT This story was updated to reflect the petition was filed on April 21
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo