Supreme Court hopefully will not allow BCCI to dilute conflict of interest rules

The Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) at the end of its annual general meeting held on Sunday in Mumbai decided to recommend six amendments to the organisation’s Constitution. One of the six includes a change which will end the Supreme Court’s say in future amendments to the Constitution.

BCCI decided to seek the apex court’s permission to make the amendments.

The proposed amendments can be divided in to two categories.

One, changes in the Constitution that can be defended. For example, a change in the way the cooling-off period is calculated will not undermine the underlying idea. In the same vein, there is a case to revisit the retirement age of 70. If a cooling-off period is in place, there is a chance of more than one power centre emerging.

The existing Constitution, in any case, does not prevent the emergence of office bearers who in popular perception are seen as proxies of former administrators.

The second kind of amendment which cannot be defended is one related to conflict of interest. In this specific case, BCCI believes existing conflict of interest rules prevent it from staffing an advisory committee which will recommend a selection panel for the men’s team.

This seems like an innocuous request. But given the background to BCCI’s struggle with conflict of interest clause, it can be the beginning of a process which undermines it.

The dictionary meaning of conflict of interest is as follows.

“A situation in which a person has a duty to more than one person or organization, but cannot do justice to the actual or potentially adverse interests of both parties. This includes when an individual’s personal interests or concerns are inconsistent with the best for a customer, or when a public official’s personal interests are contrary to his/her loyalty to public business.”

The aim is to check people from simultaneously holding more than one position where in some circumstances the interests of one position is subordinated.

A conflict of interest clause exists in many walks of life.

Even the BCCI had it before it was undone during the Shashank Manohar presidency on the heels of the introduction of IPL.

Former cricketers, however, have been reluctant to accept it. Even Sourav Ganguly, the current BCCI President, simultaneously carried out assignments which were clearly in conflict. It was only after the intervention of the Ethics Officer, one of the posts created following the Supreme Court’s intervention, Ganguly shed some of his posts.

It is possible to solve the problem of not being able to staff the advisory body by transferring the responsibility to a panel of administrators headed by the President.

Hopefully, the apex court will not allow BCCI to create a pathway to eventually water down the conflict of interest provisions across-the-board.

There have been enough problems in the last decade after BCCI removed its bar on conflict of interest. We don’t need to go through it again.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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