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Justice Lodha's order is a landmark. But is it enough to clean up cricket?

R Bharadwaj | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:19 IST

The verdict

  • The SC-appointed Justice Lodha committee has given its verdict in the IPL-6 betting scandal
  • The panel has handed out life bans to Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra
  • Since they were both \'team officials\', the panel has suspended their respective franchisees
  • India Cements (CSK) and Jaipur IPL Cricket Pvt Ltd (RR) cannot be part of the IPL for two years
  • The panel didn\'t make it clear if the teams could take part if sold to other parties

Tasks incomplete

  • IPL COO Sundar Raman is still being probed for links to bookies and not reporting corruption
  • The Lodha committee is in the process of suggesting changes to Indian cricket administration

The fallout

  • BCCI may opt to sell two new franchises to replace CSK and RR, like in the case of the Deccan Chargers
  • Players could be retained by the new franchises or be put into a fresh auction
  • Once the ban is over, the IPL could be reconstituted as a 10-team event in 2018
  • With no more conflict of interest, N Srinivasan may try to stage a comeback to the BCCI
  • In the absence of a law on sports corruption, Indian cricket may not get completely cleaned up

There can be no question that the Justice Lodha Committee delivered a landmark order on 14 July. It can spark at least a hint of a revolution in the manner in which cricket is administered by the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

The committee banned Chennai Super Kings team official Gurunath Meiyappan and former Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra for life from being associated with cricket in any way or form. The panel also meted out two-year bans to the franchisees - India Cements and Jaipur IPL Cricket Pvt Ltd - for not taking swift action against them for betting.

Impact of the decision

The future of the teams and their contracted players are now in doubt. The committee hasn't made it clear whether selling the franchises to totally different parties will allow them a way back into the Indian Premier League.

But there is no doubt that all players and officials will now be more wary of getting involved in unseemly relationships.

However, one cannot be sure if Tuesday's report will have a far-reaching impact. There's a lingering feeling that that can't happen until India has laws against corruption in sport.

The Lodha committee was assigned two other tasks by the Supreme Court, including suggesting reforms to the BCCI's Memorandum of Association and its rules and regulations. Once that is complete, there could be a greater impact.

Can the verdict be challenged?

There can still be a challenge, but it's highly unlikely that it would cut any mustard.

It's good that the Supreme Court bench, comprising Justice TS Thakur and Justice FMI Kalifulla, entrusted this responsibility to an independent three-member committee of retired judges.

That has removed apprehensions of bias and ensured transparency in arriving at these decisions, even though the powers to punish vest with the BCCI. Its president, Jagmohan Dalmiya, issued a statement saying the Board "is committed to honour and respect judicial decisions". He also asserted that the BCCI is committed to ensuring transparency, accountability and cleansing the sport.

None of those at the receiving end of the Justice Lodha Committee decision can complain about the procedure followed in the formation of the panel. Given that the Supreme Court itself had formed the panel, none will risk questioning either its formation or the procedure that it followed before arriving at its decisions.

During the hearing, Supreme Court had twice observed that the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals should be scrapped.

Until India has laws against corruption in sport, the Lodha panel order may not have a far-reaching impact

The fact that the franchisees have been given two-year bans instead of being scrapped is probably because Gurunath and Kundra were held guilty of betting rather than fixing.

Gurunath may have been removed from the Chennai Super Kings dugout and Kundra may have divested his stake in the Rajasthan Royals but, as the committee pointed out, the two teams were too slow to react to the situation and took no urgent action against the two men. Perhaps teams will be shocked into responding better to such threats in the future.

Future of the players and the IPL

What will happen to the players, you ask? A great deal depends on how the BCCI responds to the fact that there are only six eligible teams left in the IPL for now.

There's a good chance that it will go ahead and find two other franchises for the 2016 and 2017 editions of the league, since that's all that's left of the 10-year period that the original franchises were sold for. How it does that will be interesting to see.

It can pick two teams as replacements for Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals and give the new teams the option of retaining a number of the players from these outfits, like it did when it found the SunRisers Hyderabad to step in for the Deccan Chargers.

Or else, as it happened in the case of players from Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Pune Warriors India, the franchises can be disbande and players can be put up for auction. In that event, some players could make more money than they are doing now while others could lose a fair bit.

When the ban on the franchisees is lifted in 2018, the IPL could be reconstituted as a 10-team event, with CSK and RR returning to the fold. It is possible that the player retention rules would have changed enough for a big auction to take place ahead of the league in 2018.

Options in front of Srinivasan and others

Now that India Cements is suspended as a franchisee, it is possible that former BCCI president and India Cements vice-chairman and managing director N Srinivasan will feel encouraged to try and stage a comeback into the Board's administration. After all, he kept appealing to the Supreme Court to reinstate him as BCCI chief even while the hearing was on.

The manner in which the Justice Lodha Committee has approached the first of the three tasks set by the Supreme Court could make IPL COO Sundar Raman sweat. After all, the SC had harsh observations against him being in touch with a bookmaker and his decision not to share information with his superiors in the BCCI.

Questions are already being raised about the futures of others, whose names were in the sealed envelope that the original probe panel, the Justice Mudgal Committee, presented to the Supreme Court in February 2014. The panel had said these names needed to be investigated further.

It can be surmised that the Supreme Court did not deem it important to have BB Mishra - and upon his retirement from service, Vivek Priyadarshi - probe them like it did Sundar Raman.

BCCI's key mistake

On at least two key occasions, the BCCI has fumbled with the basics and paid the price in courts of law.

The first instance was back in 2000, when the BCCI imposed sanctions on five persons, including Mohammad Azharuddin, accused of being involved with bookmakers. It acted on the K Madhavan Committee recommendations, only to see that being challenged in the courts.

BCCI again erred in going ahead with a two-member panel of Justice T Jayaram Chouta and Justice R Balasubramanian to look into allegations of betting and fixing in IPL 2013.

It's unlikely that 'Brand IPL' will be affected as much as the brand equity of the two suspended teams

The panel and its clean chits to Gurunath, Kundra and the franchises were successfully challenged in the Bombay High Court, which asked the Board to form a new panel.

Instead of complying, in its wisdom, the BCCI filed an appeal against that verdict in the Supreme Court and invited more trouble than it envisaged.

However, it is unlikely that 'Brand IPL' will be affected as much as the brand equity of the two suspended teams will be.

Brand IPL has survived quite a few upheavals in the past eight years and fans have continued to flock to the games. In fact, there may be a belief that the game would be cleaner now in the wake of the suspension of the two teams.

Unanswered questions

There are some unanswered questions, though, apart from the obvious ones about the future of the franchises and if they can be sold to other parties.

Like the Supreme Court did back in January, the Justice Lodha Committee spoke of the fact that the Rajasthan Police did not take the investigation against Kundra to its logical conclusion after the Delhi Police transferred the case in a bit of hurry, citing jurisdiction issues.

Since the Justice Lodha Committee is empowered to streamline the BCCI, would it take cognisance of all the ruckus about ownership patterns of IPL teams? Would it suggest a transparent template, especially if the Board reacts to the current scenario by inviting bids for two new IPL franchise teams? Similarly, will it look at cleaning up the mess in some state cricket associations?

Above all, the moot question is: Why is there no law against corruption in sport, specifically betting? From the year 2000, when Indians first became aware of the malaise of match-fixing, we have heard successive Ministers for Youth Affairs and Sports air their desire to curb betting and fixing. But none has drafted any such Bill, indicating a lack of political will.

First published: 14 July 2015, 9:08 IST
R Bharadwaj @CatchNews

The author writes on cricket and the politics of the game.