The Report of Justice Lodha Panel on cricket reforms, which was made public, last week, has recommended the Board of Cricket Control of India -BCCI to come under RTI. Here are the reasons
Besides a string of recommendations, to the Supreme Court, for cricket reforms in India, the three-member panel led by Justice RM Lodha has also suggested to the legislature to consider bringing the Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI) under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act and to ensure transparency in all its functions and dealings of money.
The Report states, “The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) enacts that public authorities shall make known the particulars of the facilities available to citizens. Having regard to the emphasis laid by the Supreme Court that BCCI discharges public functions and also the Court’s reference to indirect approval of the Central and State Governments in activities, which has created a monopoly in the hands of the BCCI over cricket, the Committee feels that the people of the country have a right to know details about the BCCI’s functions and activities. It is therefore recommended that the legislature must seriously consider bringing BCCI within the purview of the RTI Act.”
However, presently the issue of the BCCI coming under the RTI Act is sub-judice. Therefore, the Report mentions “While the issue of the BCCI being amenable to the RTI Act is sub-judice before the High Court of Madras in WP No20229/2013, many respondents who appeared and interacted with the Committee were of the view that BCCI’s activities must come under the RTI Act.”
The Lodha Panel Report has put immense importance to “transparency” by the BCCI. Besides the RTI Act, it has recommended that the website of BCCI be transparent (information on the website is also an integral part of the RTI Act) about the tenders and bids, on annual reports, balance sheets and resolutions and links to online ticket facilities.
The Lodha Panel Report has also has recommended the regional bodies of BCCI to put most of the information in public domain, observing corruption, financial irregularities, conflict of interest, partiality in selection of cricketers and so on.
Here’s what it has proposed for the BCCI and its regional offices:
“…the Committee proposes that clear principles of transparency be laid down, and the BCCI website and office will carry all rules, regulations and office orders of the BCCI, the constitution of the various committees, their resolutions, the expenditures under various heads, the reports of the Ombudsman/ Auditor/ Electoral Officer/ Ethics Officer and the annual reports and balance sheets.”
“In addition, norms and procedures shall be laid down for the engagement of service professionals and contractors, and there shall be full transparency of all tenders floated and bids invited by or on behalf of the BCC.”
“….The website shall also have links to the various stadia with seating capacities and transparent direct ticketing facilities.”
Constitution & Functioning of Members Apart from the BCCI
The majority of the regional members of the BCCI are societies registered either under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 or the respective State acts. A handful have recently been registered as companies under the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 (Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra). The Cricket Club of India (CCI) and the National Cricket Club (NCC) are also public companies limited by guarantee. Thus, all existing Members of the BCCI have different structures. Uniformity in the constitution and functioning of the Member Associations is necessary for the proper governance of the game. The different structures in Member Associations have brought about much disquiet in Indian cricket.
Compliance: Companies and Societies have fundamentally different constitutions and objects, apart from different reporting and compliance mechanisms. While the associations that are companies have been registered as not-for-profit (earlier under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 and now under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013), there is little to show that there has been compliance as legally mandated. As far as Associations registered as societies are concerned, the relevant statutes provide for a comparatively lesser degree of transparency.
Expenditure & Infrastructure: One of the major criticisms of the functioning of the BCCI has been the fact that there has been no accountability by Member Associations of the grants given to them by the BCCI for the ‘development of cricket’. No detailed account are maintained, no oversight or audit is carried out, and on the rare occasion where a particular Association has been found wanting, there is no follow up action. The funds are allegedly utilised for winning votes by apportioning amounts to constituents (clubs, and district associations) and quite frequently being siphoned away without any accountability.
State infrastructure remains poorly developed with very few turf wickets or cricket grounds outside of the existing stadium. The stadia (even new ones) do not provide basic facilities to the public, nor offer food and water at a reasonable price or of an acceptable quality. More importantly, the lack of hygienic toilets and access to the differently-abled discourage many patrons. The ad-hoc and irregular manner of creating stands or refurbishing the premises without proper municipal permissions has led to a standoff with at least two state governments (Delhi and Tamil Nadu). The eventual victim is, of course, the cricket fan who loses out on a chance to watch a home match.
Lack of professionalism: There is no distinction between governance and management in the Member Associations, and no steps have been taken to create modern and professional systems to take cricket administration forward. The accounting systems for example, are uniformly capable of alterations without a trace, thereby opening up the possibility of abuse. There is no incentive to create revenue streams, and it is time to rouse the Member Associations from their comfortable couches where they rest upon BCCI’s largesse.
Dual posts: Strangely, while conflict of interest issues have been at the heart of recent controversies, virtually all office bearers of the BCCI continue to be office bearers in their respective State Associations at the same time. Presidents and Secretaries of State Associations are to discharge functions with the primary interest of the State in mind, but as BCCI office bearers, these interests would have to be subordinated to that of national interest. Often, with powers centred on an office bearer, that individual has been found to appoint his State associates to critical posts in the BCCI, thereby creating an imbalance.
Interference in selection: Over the last two decades, there have been disturbing accounts of some of the country’s leading players being forced to migrate and play for other States because the home state’s administration looks to suppress their avenues and brook no independent action by the Selection Committees. Large amounts of influence, in all possible unsavoury forms have been utilised in order to have one player or other selected, with merit being wholly ignored. The problem is so deep-rooted, that many feel that the States are not inducting or fielding their best available talent.
Transparency: While quite a few associations have websites, the relevant and critical details including their constitution, bye-laws, accounts, expenditure, ethics guidelines and player statistics are rarely available or up to date. There are many others who do not even have or maintain websites, nor do their offices respond to requests from journalists and others for sharing such material.
Information: Technology solutions, as referred to earlier, would be useful to ensure that such transparency is achieved. Each State Association will necessarily have a website that carries the following minimum details:
a. The Constitution, Memorandum of Association and Rules & Regulations, Bye-Laws and Office Orders and directions that govern the functioning of the Association, its Committees, the Ombudsman and the Ethics Officer.
b. The list of Members of the Association as well as those who are defaulters.
c. The annual accounts & audited balance sheets and head-wise income and expenditure details.
d. Details of male, female and differently abled players representing the State at all age groups with their names, ages and detailed playing statistics.
e. Advertisements and invitations for tenders when the Association is seeking supply of any goods or services (exceeding a minimum prescribed value), or notices regarding recruitment, as also the detailed process for awarding such contracts or making such recruitments.
f. Details of all goals and milestones for developing cricket in the State along with timelines and the measures undertaken to achieve each of them.
g. Details of all office bearers and other managerial staff (including CEO, COO, CFO, etc.)
h. Details of directives from the BCCI and their compliances. These websites will have to be maintained and updated at least on a quarterly basis. All the above information will have to be maintained at the registered office of the State Association and when sought, the same shall be shared with the applicant on the payment of a reasonable fee, as may be prescribed by the Association.
Let us see how much of the Lodha Panel’s recommendations are implemented, considering the heavy money and political clout that the BCCI has come to be.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, and also convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book "To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte" with Vinita Kamte and is the author of "The Mighty Fall".)