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Supreme Court: BCCI is not ‘State’ under Art. 12; Srinivasan prohibited from contesting BCCI elections

In a 138 pages long judgment delivered on 22nd January, by Justices T.S. Thakur and Ibrahim Kalifulla, the Supreme Court struck down the 2008 Amendment to Rule 6.2.4 of the BCCI Regulations and prohibited N.Srinivasan from contesting elections to the BCCI while holding any stake in any BCCI event. The Court held that BCCI is not ‘State’ within the meaning of Art. 12. It also examined the allegations of betting/spot-fixing levelled against Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra.

Following its 2005 judgment in Zee Telefilms v. Union of India,(2005) 4 SCC 649 the Court observed that the BCCI is not ‘state’ within the meaning of Art. 12 of the Constitution of India.While examining the guidelines for determining whether an entity is indeed ‘State’ under Art. 12, the Court observed that though the “nature of duties and functions” performed by the BCCI falls within the domain of public functions, it cannot be held to be exercising a State function as it is not the legally authorized as well as the sole representative of the Government controlling cricketing activities in India. However, the BCCI does exercise pervasive control over the game of cricket in the country through the selection of players, garnering and distributing telecast and broadcast rights etc. Also, the team sponsored by the BCCI is deemed the national team and its players have garnered public popularity and State honours. In lieu of these functions, the Board is amenable to the writ jurisdiction of High Courts under Art. 226 of the Constitution of India, in case of violation of any constitutional or statutory rights due to its activities.

The Amendment to Regulation 6.2.4 of BCCI Regulations permitting Administrators to hold commercial interest in BCCI events like IPL or Champions League T-20 has been struck down. Justice Thakur observed that the above amendment permits conflict of interest situations which would “grossly erode the confidence of the people in the authenticity, purity and the integrity of the game.” Such a conflict of interest is the “complete anti-thesis” to sacrosanct “principles and fundamental imperatives” of the Board and is against ‘public policy’.

The Court held that those who don the caps of both cricket administrator and IPL team owner will be disqualified until the time they chose to shed their stake in one of them. While casting serious doubts were cast over Srinivasan’s conduct during his time at the helm, the Court deemed his commercial interest in CSK in conflict with his duties as BCCI President. Harping upon the requirement for “pristine” administration of the game, the Court emphasised the need for “institutional integrity as individuals are only birds of passage and institutions are forever”. However, much to the relief of Srinvisan, allegations of ‘cover up’ of incidents of betting perpetrated by his son-in-law, against the BCCI President were dismissed as no visible evidence was put forward in support of the same

Meiyappan, Kundra are ‘team officials’; 3 Member Committee to probe and punish

While approving the findings of the Mukul Mudgal Committee Report, the two judge bench held Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra to be ‘team officials’ of their respective teams, on the preponderance of probabilities. As such, the Court also held that the respective franchisees/teams/team owners are also capable of being terminated and/or punished. For such purposes, the Court has constituted a 3 member Committee under the Chairmanship of Justice R.M. Lodha (former Chief Justice of India). Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice Ashok Bhan are to constitute the other two members of the committee. The Committee is also required to probe, investigate and if found guilty, punish Mr.Sundar Raman, the Chief Operating Officer of the Indian Premier League. The decision of the committee shall be “final and binding” upon the BCCI.

Apart from its predominant duties, the Justice R.M. Lodha Committee is also required to examine and make suitable recommendations for reforms in the practices and procedures of BCCI.