Finally, after nearly 30 months of being supervised by a court-appointed authority, the BCCI members are on track to regain control of board with their elections scheduled for October 22. The decision was taken by the three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) in Delhi today, nearly two-and-a-half years after it was appointed by the Supreme Court to oversee the BCCI's implementation of the Lodha Committee's recommendations.
The development came close on the heels of the negotiations between the BCCI members - state associations - and senior Supreme Court advocate PS Narasimha, the amicus curiae appointed earlier this year. Having heard the BCCI members individually, Narasimha submitted a report to the court, which will sign off on the matter when it reopens in July after the summer recess.
It is understood that 31 out of the 38 state associations have technically agreed to comply with the Lodha recommendations subject to all the concessions discussed and approved by Narasimha. Of the seven other members, a few wanted to take a final call after consulting their own members.
One important recommendation that Narasimha agreed to modify, in step with the state associations, was regarding the strength of the Apex Council, a key authorising body under the reforms. Narasimha agreed to expand it from nine members to 19. Under the CoA-approved BCCI constitution, the Apex Council will comprise nine members both at the board and the state level, something the board members have objected to.
During the negotiations, Narasimha also provided clarity on the disputed recommendation concerning the tenure of the office bearers. The Lodha Committee had recommended that an office bearer could preside for nine years separately at the state and the BCCI level, as long as a cooling-off period was in place. But the new BCCI constitution registered last year was not clear on this point. Narasimha confirmed that an office bearer could work for 18 years as long as the cooling-off period of three years, which comes into play after two consecutive terms of three years each, was exercised.
CoA chairman Vinod Rai, at the time of his appointment, had said the interim panel's role would be akin to that of the nightwatchman in cricket. But the role turned out to be significantly more elaborate as virtually every state association was against readily implementing the Lodha reforms that were approved by the court in 2016.
As the state associations became more dogged in their resistance, the CoA's vigil extended and so did its authority. Gradually, as the CoA wielded its control beyond the reforms, it even became the final authority on cricketing decisions. Consequently, a parallel conflict erupted with the state associations and the three BCCI office bearers contesting the CoA's powers and approaching the court on several occasions.
With the state associations adopting a confrontational stance, the CoA submitted ten status reports to the court listing out the difficulties it was facing in helping the BCCI implement the reforms. The court intervened intermittently, including amending a few of the original Lodha recommendations. Last October, BCCI chief executive officer Rahul Johri, at the behest of the CoA, registered a new BCCI constitution mandating the reforms.
Several states refused to budge though, even with the CoA asking the court to bar the voting rights of all BCCI members that declined to be compliant. A total of 80-odd interlocutory applications - pleas - were filed by various state associations contesting the reforms.
However, Narasimha's mediation role seems to have worked, allowing the CoA to now put out a roadmap for the elections. Rai said the CoA was "exceedingly happy" that the BCCI members had decided to comply. "It was a nightwatchman who came to stay," Rai told ESPNcricinfo. "However, I feel very happy that the state associations have cooperated and all the recommendations have been accepted, which means now there is a general consensus that cricket administration should be streamlined and run [in an] objective and transparent manner. The CoA is exceedingly happy to entrust the administration of the BCCI back to the democratic body."
According to Rai, till the elections are held, the CoA will continue to monitor and authorise cricketing operations, including matters related to the appointment or renewal of coaching staff. Incidentally, the tenure of the coaching staff of the Indian men's team is up to the end of World Cup on July 14.
The BCCI elections will usher in a new era in Indian cricket administration, which has historically been run by a group of individuals that has wielded power and exercised control for decades.* To contest these elections, both at the state level and the BCCI, an administrator/office bearer would need to fulfil the following criteria: he/she should be an Indian citizen, not over 70, not insolvent or of unsound mind, not a government servant or a minister, not part of any other sports federation, and most importantly not held office at state or BCCI level for a cumulative period of nine years.
It remains to be seen whether the three current BCCI office bearers - CK Khanna (acting president), Amitabh Choudhury (acting secretary) and Anirudh Chaudhry (treasurer) - are eligible to contest the elections. All three have reportedly served for more than the permissible nine years at their respective state associations. At the BCCI level, all three have served for varied periods and might need to serve the mandatory three-year cooling-off period before being eligible to contest board elections.
June 30: Deadline for the BCCI to appoint an electoral officer, and the preparing of the electoral protocol by the said electoral officer in consultation with the CoA, which should be communicated to all the state associations
July 1: Deadline for appointment of an electoral officer by the state associations
August 14: Deadline for completion of election protocol and electoral roll of the state associations by the state's electoral officer
September 14: Deadline for completion of elections of the state associations
September 23: Deadline for sending of names of representatives of state associations to the BCCI
September 30: Deadline for preparing the electoral roll of nominees qualified for the BCCI elections
October 22: The BCCI elections
*16.20GMT, May 21: The article was updated with information on candidates' eligibility