Newsmaker: RM Lodha

Former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha has pronounced like Solomon — and given that the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) is bound by an undertaking that his judgment would not be questioned in any court, it is just a matter of time before his recommendations are accepted, and the management of Indian cricket is transformed forever.

First, how did this committee come about? The Lodha Committee was formed on January 22, 2015, by the Supreme Court after the Mudgal Committee, appointed as an investigator into the Indian Premier League 2013 scandal, submitted its report. The terms of reference of the committee, comprising Justice Lodha, and retired Supreme Court judges Ashok Bhan and R Raveendran were: Determine appropriate punishments for Gurunath Meiyappan, Raj Kundra and their respective franchises, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals; examine the role of Sundar Raman, the IPL chief operating officer, in the scandal and suggest amendments to the processes followed by the BCCI with a view to preventing sporting frauds now and in the future.There is no cricket buff who does not remember the shameful background to the Mudgal Committee. In 2013, the Delhi Police were tracking cellphone conversations of bookies after they got leads that players were involved in match-fixing. That’s when they found conversations between Meiyappan and some bookies. As Meiyappan was the son-in-law of former BCCI president N Srinivasan who also had a stake in the Chennai Super Kings IPL team, Srinivasan was asked to step down on grounds of conflict of interest. While monitoring conversations, the police also found evidence of Kundra’s contact with these bookies. The Mudgal Committee found both Meiyappan and Kundra guilty. But the punishment was left to another committee. This was the Lodha panel.

The Lodha Committee’s mandate was to find ways to restructure the BCCI. That is what the current report is all about. He has gone not just into the issue of age limit for cricket administrators and their qualification. He has also outlined clearly where there is conflict of interest (obviously based on what the committee recorded while it was studying the issue) and suggested how this could be fixed.

Among the corrections he has suggested are a separate set of administrators to look at the running of the BCCI and the IPL, with certain level of autonomy provided to the IPL body. The day to day management of the BCCI should be conducted by a CEO and he should be assisted by six professional managers, who will be responsible to an apex council.

Moreover, the governing council of the IPL should take all decisions regarding the IPL, including financial decisions. The governing council will also be answerable to the the BCCI general body.

What about those who should be outlawed from cricket management? The panel recommends those above 70, serving bureaucrats and those who have already served in the BCCI for nine years should be barred from holding any position. In addition, Lodha suggested the mandatory appointment of three people: a retired Supreme Court or a high court judge as ombudsman, who will arbitrate on internal disputes resolution mechanism and disputes between BCCI and its members, among others; an ethics officer who will look at issues relating to the conflict of interest, misdemeanour, misbehaviour or corruption issues; and an electoral officer who will oversee the entire process for the election of office bearers.

Lodha is only a former Chief Justice, not a seer, so he cannot be expected to have set right everything that’s wrong with cricket administration in India and everything that could go wrong in the future. The world has seen what money and power can do to sports governing bodies: the sordid FIFA story is right there, before us. Hopefully, the rot that has set in Indian cricket will be stemmed by his recommendations.

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