'CoA dwelt more on administration than implementing Lodha reforms'

Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, secretary of the Lodha committee, gave his lowdown on the conflict between the CoA and the BCCI office bearers.

Vinod Rai (R) and Diana Edulji (L) remain the only panel-members of the CoA, with Vikram Limaye (C) and Ramachandra Guha having resigned from their positions.   -  AFP

In May of 2017, when the Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) completed 100 days in office, CoA head Vinod Rai had expressed his optimism about meeting the Lodha mandate by October of the very same year. 

It's March of 2018 now and two members of the committee - Vikram Limaye and Ramachandra Guha - have demitted their respective positions, the CoA has clipped BCCI's wings by taking away the functioning powers of its office-bearers, kept its decision on India's maiden day-night Test pending and decided to hold e-auctions for BCCI media rights among other things. And yet the standoff between the world's richest cricket body and the CoA continues to drag its heels with no apparent end in sight. 

Sportstar caught up with advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, secretary of the Lodha committee - the body entrusted with the task of suggesting reforms to overhaul India's cricketing infrastructure - to get a lowdown on issues related to CoA and the Lodha reforms. 

Do you feel the CoA has struggled badly to meet its real objective?

Yes. I believe the CoA has had several hurdles placed in its path, but I also feel that the Supreme Court could have done more to ensure that its own judgements were obeyed. Over the last 18 months, cricket lovers have watched as a final judgement of the Court remains unimplemented, and the proceedings are rendered farcical by the very people who lost the case trying to open everything up again. The CoA has tried to find a balance between implementation and administration but probably dwelt too much on the latter. My personal view is that Mr. Rai and Ms. Edulji should just tell the Court that we will give this another couple of months, after that you are on your own.  

Has the stand-off between CoA and the BCCI dragged on longer than expected?

Absolutely. This is no manner for a final judgement of the Court to be treated. All these objections were taken, argued threadbare and rejected. Review Petitions have also been rejected. I am unaware of what jurisdiction the Court has clothed itself with to continue hearing these cases. I feel this is an assault on the integrity of the institution, otherwise tomorrow the rich and powerful will feel that with their cases, the Supreme Court can always be coaxed to change its mind even after a definitive final pronouncement.

With Mr. Limaye and Mr. Guha resigning, the four-member panel is now down to two. Does that, in any manner, affect the workings of the committee?

I have no idea, but I presume it does. It's always good to have a broad-based group of minds, and the replacements ought to have been in place long before now.

Vinod Rai, who heads the CoA, will be turning 70 this May. Is the age cap of 70 for BCCI administrators applicable to CoA members too? If no, then why not?

Just as all other reforms suggested by the Lodha Committee have been accepted by the Supreme Court by a final judgement, yet none of them has really translated into action because many applications have been filed that have kept the case dragging on. In my view, the CoA is merely a transitional team, and the age cap shouldn't be an issue until the case is disposed off.  

Lastly, at the time of appointing the CoA panel, did the honourable Supreme Court mull the possibility of such a situation arising - members crossing 70 while the issue is still pending?  

Yes, they did. There were some names suggested by the Amicus, including former cricketers, who were above 70 and the Court said they would not want those above that age to be part of the CoA. But again, the Court contemplated the CoA to complete its tasks within a few months and for the new Constitution to start operating. But as long as "Honorary" office-bearers of the BCCI keep taking objections to their fiefdom being threatened, and as long as the Supreme Court continues to entertain them, this saga will just continue.