By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury
It is interesting to note the timely intervention of the Hon’ble Supreme Court into the serious allegations of match / spot fixing, betting and allied activities of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Indian Premier League (IPL). Whether the current phase of judicial activism in Cricket leading to Sunil Gavaskar’s stewardship of BCCI will lead to long-term cleansing of cricket or not, time will tell. But it is important to look at the rot that has beset Indian cricket, the nation having the highest earning cricket board of the world.
Worst Phase of Indian Sports
Indian sports including cricket is going through its worst ever phase since Independence. For the first time in December 2012 in its 118 years of Olympic history, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) which selects and represents Team India at various international multi sports events, stood suspended by the world parent body International Olympic Committee (IOC) as a result of which Indian athletes were not allowed to participate in the Winter Olympics 2012 or hoist the Indian national flag and play the national anthem. Indian cricket has also been afflicted with wide spread mismanagement, financial irregularities, corruption, match / spot fixing and betting.
BCCI like all other National Sports Federations (NSF’s) enjoys complete autonomy without any transparency or accountability while performing key public functions which are akin to State functions such as selecting & representing Team India and controlling the entire game of cricket at the district, state, national and international arena including control over the careers of players, umpires, broadcasters, franchisees, agents, sponsors, etc.
BCCI as also its Member State Associations are headed by various politicians cutting across party lines such as Sharad Pawar, Farooq Abdullah, Rajiv Shukla, CP Joshi, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Arun Jaitley, Narindra Modi, Anurag Thakur, amongst others who have, over the decades, nurtured and created fiefdoms by manipulating & handpicking members of their Electoral College and under the garb of holding “honorary posts” have eaten into the vitals of Indian cricket completely ignoring the participation of cricketers in its management & affairs. Time has come when Indian cricket bodies need to be revamped and restructured in order to clean them of the large scale irregularities, all pervasive conflict of interest, conspiracy of silence and status quo by embracing sweeping & meaningful reforms which have the potential of radically transforming the governance and functioning of BCCI / IPL.
It is important to highlight in the interest of every sports-loving person of India and the burgeoning sports management industry the various irregularities, frauds, illegalities and scams in the field of cricket which have also appeared from time to time in the print & electronic media and this is being done keeping in view the larger public interest and for improving the gentleman’s game of cricket, reputation of which is at its lowest ebb.
Maharashtra Cricket Association (President MCA) : Shri Sharad Pawar
In a city where land is gold, powerful get it dirt cheap. According to a PIL filed by Mayank Gandhi land measuring 39,950 sq. metres was allotted to MCA for training of youngsters in cricket but the Association used it for commercial purposes. This was done at the behest of Union Minister Shri Sharad Pawar, whose writ has run large on the MCA over decades now. Shri Pawar got the Government rules bent in order to get a recreation ground in prime Bandra Kurla Complex in the guise of promoting cricket although it tied up with Shirke constructions to run this as a swank commercial club for the super rich by giving it exclusive rights to sell 3000 memberships at the rate of Rs. 15 Lakhs each. Thus, MCA got allotted 52,157 sq. Metres plot on a throw away rate for a lease period of 80 years.
Jammu & Kashmir Cricket Association (President JKCA) : Shri Farooq Abdullah
JKCA is headed by Union Minister Farooq Abdullah. JKCA is facing charges of diverting Rs. 50 Crores received from the BCCI as subsidy to bogus accounts said to have been opened. The said money has been diverted to the said bogus accounts and subsequently siphoned off through issuance of bearer cheques. The police is said to be investing the matter after having registered an FIR.
Shri Rajeev Shukla, Vice President BCCI & a Cabinet Minister in the Central Government
A 2,821 sq. metre Government owned plot in Andheri, Mumbai reserved for a primary school was sold to BAG Films Education Society (BFES) for a paltry Rs. 98,735/- in the year 2008. In addition to this, papers reveal that a 3,534.70 sq. metre plot adjacent to the first one, reserved for a play ground, was also allotted to the above Society on a 15 years lease for just Rs. 6,309/-. When allotting the plot(s) the Government calculated their value based on 1976 rates of Rs. 140 per sq. metre. A conservative estimate pegs the current market value of the said two plots, located near Andheri’s Country Club, at a staggering Rs. 100 Crores. Mrs. Anuradha Prasad, wife of Shri Rajeev Shukla, is the Chairperson of the said Society while Rajeev Shukla was its Secretary at the time of the said allotment. The present value of the plot may be running into several hundred crores.
Delhi District & Cricket Association ( President DDCA) : Shri Arun Jaitley
A team of the Serious Fraud Investigation Office raided the premises of the DDCA and had inspected the various documents including the accounts of the said cricket body and the BJP leader Shri Arun Jaitley was President of DDCA. This was done on the complaint of BJP MP Shri Kirti Azad making allegations of financial fraud, illegal payments to members of the DDCA without clearance from the Registrar of Companies, rigging of elections, extravagant expenses, illegalities in procurement process and misuse of funds, etc. Mr. Azad had also raised this issue in the Lok Sabha.
Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (President HPCA) : Shri Anurag Thakur
Tightening its noose on BJP MP Shri Anurag Thakur and his brother Shri Arun Singh, both sons of Former CM Shri PK Dhumal, vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau booked them for alleged cheating and conspiracy in land case as reported in both print & electronic media. In the FIR registered in this behalf both the brothers have been accused of forging documents in connivance with some revenue officials for purchasing the land of a Dalit “Premu”, now deceased. The stadium built on the land was taken over by the Government of Virbhadra Singh but the Hon’ble High Court of Himachal Pradesh restored its possession to Shri Anurag Thakur lead HPCA. The matter is sub-judice.
Need for Transparency
The above activities of the officials who are managing the affairs of various State Cricket Associations including the BCCI clearly show that they have serious vested interest in maintaining the status quo, not allowing their scrutiny through the Right to Information Act and stalling the passage of National Sports Development Bill (Sports Bill / Khelpal) despite the fact that they, through their parties, such as Congress, NCP, NC, BJP, etc have two third majority in the Parliament to pass all necessary legislations. In the year 2000 CBI, during the probe conducted by it in the match fixing scandal, had suggested appropriate laws to be enacted for dealing with the menace of match fixing including prosecution of culprits. Instead of taking immediate steps in this direction, the said top political bosses have maintained conspiracy of silence by ignoring the valuable suggestions thus freely permitting such illegalities being committed with impunity. Even the investigations / inquiries recommended in the Report dated July 22, 2011 by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance headed by Shri Yashwant Sinha seems to not have been complied with. Instead of taking stringent action against those involved in various kinds of illegal activities in the IPL as detailed in the said Parliamentary Committee Report, a long handle has been provided to it for reason best known to the authorities. In order to create a deterrent, citizens now demand a free, fair, independent and time bound investigation into the findings of the said Parliamentary Committee Report and any subsequrnt findings thereto by various investigating agencies such as the CBI, DRI, RBI, FEMA and appropriate inquiries under the Income Tax Act, Companies Act, etc to bring the culprits to book.
Plan of Action to Cleanse Cricket
To stem the rot as briefly stated above, the nation must now stand for revamping and restructuring BCCI & IPL through the following, amongst other, suggestions: –
1. To ensure complete transparency in the functioning of the BCCI, the same must be brought under the RTI Act since all other National Sports Federations are already under the ambit & purview of the sunshine legislation. There should be no exception in the case of BCCI;
2. Since there is no accountability of the BCCI towards anyone, we must be committed to introduction and passage of the Sports Bill / Khelpal which encompasses the best international practices and good democratic principles in running the affairs of the sports bodies including BCCI.
3. Continued activities of the cricketers / Team Owners in the BCCI / IPL concerning match / spot fixing and betting have necessitated passing of deterrent laws to save the image of cricket in India from deteriorating further. The Government of the day, through its Law Minister, had also felt the necessity of passing stringent laws in this behalf but it is baffling that nothing has been done in this regard due to the match fixing of the political bosses.