Introduction

The game of the colonial rulers has made path-breaking achievements in modern India. Yes, it is directed towards the growing influence of cricket in India;the country lives and breathes cricket since times immemorial. The 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup made a huge impact, and further boosted the popularity of the game. Cricket, unlike any other sport, has gained vast popularity in India, but it is not yet safe from the influence of money and politics. The issue of political intervention in the sporting activities has hindered the growth of sports in the country, and has made it uncompetitive at the international level.

Mumbai: BCCI President Anurag Thakur with the States’ Cricket Associations’ members and officials at the 87th AGM of BCCI at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai on Wednesday. PTI Photo by Shashank Parade (PTI9_21_2016_000079B)

The allegations of fixing, spot-fixing, match-fixing and corruption have made the youth of the country skeptical to opt for it as a profession. The gentlemen’s sport has been contaminated due to the ongoing corrupt and unscrupulous activities and influential people have used it as a means to find lucrative business opportunities. The growing political influence has been challenged on various spheres, but in the forefront, judicial activism challenged this political intervention. The story began with the advent of the Indian Premier League, which was widely promoted, and brought the elite classes under one spectrum. The flow of money was uncalculated, and this was the major business opportunity in the field of sports. The stadiums flooded with the presence of spectators, big endorsements were involved, young talents were promoted, but all this glamour hid the conspiracy. The practices of spot-fixing started to be undertaken, allegations of money laundering were often raised. This led to the judicial activism to reform the game. The Bihar Cricket Association filing the case against the practice of spot-fixing was a major breakthrough. The absconding of Lalit Modi and various allegations cleared the picture, and led to the constitution of the three member committee under the chairmanship of former Chief Justice of India, R. M.Lodha, famously known as theLodha Committee.

Overview of the Recommendations

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India constituted the committee to provide recommendations for the reformation of the game. The sole purpose of the committee was to examine the issues of spot-fixing and other unscrupulous activities, and provide valuable recommendations so that an efficient mechanism could be established to tackle the menace. The committee was headed by former CJI R. M.Lodha, alongwith two other members, Justice Ashok Bhan and R. V.Raveendran. The committee conducted extensive research to ensure the purity of the game, and laid down some recommendations. One of the prime recommendations was to reduce the political influence, and restructure the functioning of the BCCI.  The Committee primarily recommended to bring the Board within the ambit of Right to Information, to make it more citizen friendly, and the appointment of auditors to make the accounts of the BCCI known to the general public. The Committee also stressed upon the establishment of One State One Vote, which would bring the non-cricketing states of the country in the framework of the decision making, and would also lead to the promotion of the sport.

The major recommendation was related to the menace of Spot-fixing, and regulation of the affairs of the Indian Premier League. Pertaining to the first aspect, the Committee emphasised upon the promulgation of the legislation to regulate such activities, and also provided a forward-looking recommendation to legalise betting. With respect to the Indian Premier League, the Committee recommended for the establishment of the Indian Premier League Council, and separate the bodies to ensure its independence. The Hon’ble Apex Court wholeheartedly welcomed the recommendations, as these were also widely applauded by the public. The attempt was to rejuvenate the cricketing spirit in the country by providing it with the sanctity it earlier had. The recommendation changed the wind, and it was a step forward to reform the game. But, this led to another controversy between the political camps on one hand and the judiciary on the other. Some considered it to be judicial overreach. It was very evident that the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to implement the recommendations of the Lodha Committee was not appreciated by the Board, and this led to the emergence of a chain of events widening the gap between the Board and the Court.

BCCI v Court

The judgment of the Hon’ble Court was seen as a new dawn for cricket in India. But, the political spectrum indulged into dilatory practices to delay the process. The richest board of the world didn’t want to lose the grip upon the affairs, and filed review against the judgment of the court. But, the Bench headed by Chief Justice T. S. Thakur, rejected the petition by stating that no error apparent was found in its judgment. The Board thereafter welcomed majority of the recommendations, but disputed upon some points such as One State One Vote, Cooling off period for three years, age limit of 70 years etc. The matter was further heard, but the Court, adamant in its opinion, warned the BCCI to “fall in line otherwise we will make you fall in line”. The statement received mixed reactions. As the supporters of the judgment called it the determined and independent judiciary, others stated it as judicial overreach. But, in the public opinion, the judiciary is simply trying to bring out the clean image of the game. The attempt to revolutionise the game can often be related to the ideas of the revolutionaries like ‘people talk about change, but they are accustomed to the system, and if any change comes they start to tremble’. Such is the state of the present day system. The independence of the game from political intervention was always talked about, but an attempt at the same is labelled as judicial overreach.

But the Apex Court seems to be determined and has not allowed any delay. It has taken serious cognizance of the non-compliance. The Lodha Panel also recommended banks to stop disbursing funds to the Board and start sacking office-bearers owing to continuous non-compliance. The Apex Court had warned of perjury and contempt proceedings against Anurag Thakur for non-compliance of the order of the court. The Hon’ble Judge cautioned that any attempt to mislead the court and delay the process would be considered contempt of court. The Hon’ble Judge further stated that freedom does not mean to wilfully non-comply with the order of the court. But, the long-standing dispute took the drastic turn on Jan 2, 2017, when the Hon’ble Court finally took a step having far-reaching effect by ordering the removal of Anurag Thakur for being defiant and stalling on the reforms recommended by the Panel.

Conclusion

 The issue has not been resolved yet, but the drastic and bold steps of the Court have surely raised many eyebrows. The Court has presented its determined will and authority, and has clearly indicated that any obstruction to disobey the law of the land would not be tolerated and strict measures will be taken. There are murmurs that if the Court is willing to interfere in the affairs of the Board, then the Court must regulate it by breaching the autonomy of the Board. But, the actual fact is not about judicial activism or judicial overreach, but the core crux lies upon the reformation of the game in a bid to uphold its sanctity.

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