Friday, October 21st, 2016

Supreme Court cuts down to size the defiant BCCI’s financial powers

R Venkataraman | October 21, 2016 3:23 pm Print
The BCCI has also been restricted from disbursing funds to its state units and associations until it passed the necessary resolution for the implementation of the Lodha Panel recommendations. Independent auditors would be appointed to scrutinise the accounts. This assumes significance as BCCI is about to award for the next 10 years contracts for media rights beginning 2018 for the multi-billion dollar Indian Premier League.
Justice R M Lodha and Anurag Thakur , BCCI president

The world’s richest sports body, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), suffered a severe jolt on Friday as the Supreme Court severely curtailed its financial powers. An apex bench presided by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Tirath Singh Thakur ruled that the BCCI cannot enter into contracts above a certain monetary ceiling, which would now on be fixed by the Justice Lodha committee recommendations in the matter. It added that the Lodha panel would fix a limit on the monetary value of contracts that BCCI would enter into from now on. The BCCI has also been directed to seek the permission and approval of the Lodha committee, if it would want a contract regarding media rights, ground rights and all other related contracts above the fixed limit.

The BCCI has also been restricted from disbursing funds to its state units and associations until it passed the necessary resolution for the implementation of the Lodha panel recommendations. Independent auditors would be appointed to scrutinise the accounts. This assumes significance as the BCCI is about to award for the next 10 years contracts for media rights beginning 2018 for the multi-billion dollar Indian Premier League.

In the last bidding for the same till 2017, it fetched a mind-boggling $1.6 billion, which the Sony Pictures Network got and holds the IPL telecast rights till the end of 2017. Now it is time for the BCCI to call for fresh contracts as it is almost a year for the end of the contract and fresh contracts have to begin from the commencement of 2018. The fresh contracts are slated for tendering on October 25. For this, the BCCI has to seek the permission of the Lodha Panel. According to reports, the BCCI is slated to get $4.5 billion from TV, the internet and mobile rights for the telecast. It would be a world record for any sports body.

BCCI’s current president Anurag Thakur and its secretary Ajay Shirke have been ordered to appear before the Lodha panel in compliance with the committee’s recommendations. They have also been directed to file detailed affidavits on oath in the court enumerating the specific recommendations they have accepted and also those they have not implemented yet.

Independent auditors would also be appointed by the Lodha Committee. This auditors’ panel would scrutinise all BCCI accounts and submit a report to the Lodha Committee. Further, bringing the BCCI completely under its leash, the court decided to continually monitor the issue by fixing December 5 for further hearings when compliance report, auditors’ report, and other details are supposed to be submitted.

Corruption allegations shroud the richest world sports body. With Indians being crazy about films and cricket, this cricket sports body has overtaken, in terms of the mind-boggling money involved, all other sports, including India’s national sports hockey. Interestingly, the BCCI registered under the Tamil Nadu Registration of Societies Act, 1975, was advised by a former judge of the Supreme Court to conduct its general body meeting as it could not be controlled by a court-appointed committee but only the registrar of Tamil Nadu.

But in this sports, there are wheels within wheels and hence the main resistance came from the recommendations “one man one post, one state one vote, three-year term for an office bearer and after that a three-year cool-off term, the age limit of 70 years for administrators”. Manipulating this earlier, many bigwigs in politics and business dominated this sports body. A prominent politician came under a cloud as well as a business family related to a former finance minister. Raids were conducted but no case is yet concretized.

But the apex court had earlier made it clear that the “reforms” suggested by the Lodha Committee would be binding to the BCCI. Now all contracts, including the high-value ones in the past, would come under the scrutiny which may result in the proverbial skeletons tumbling out of the cupboard.

R Venkataraman
R Venkataraman
(The writer is ex-accredited correspondent of Supreme Court of India, Parliament of India, Central Government (PIB) and ex-member Press Council of India.)
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