National School of Journalism (NSoJ) Bureau in conversation with Gopal Sankaranarayan, secretary of the Lodha Committee and advocate at the Supreme Court of India
In a country where cricket is religion, where an immense love for the sport is found in every household, where every child dreams of being a cricketer, it is important for the nation to cater to the needs of development of cricket in India. NSoJ was in conversation with Gopal Sankaranarayan, Secretary of the Lodha Committee and we asked him about his thoughts on the growth rate of cricket in India. “If a state has to develop a sport like cricket, you don’t build seven 60,000 capacity stadiums across the state. What you need to do is to convert your rough hard grounds into turf, which costs one-fiftieth the price and which will help the local kids to learn how to play at an international level- the way it is done in South Africa or Australia,” he said. “For us to get there, we have to snip the nepotism in the bud. The money instead, is spent on buying jewellery for the wives of the administrators. Are you saying the Lodha committee shouldn’t have taken note of this and acted accordingly? Or the Supreme Court, for that matter?” he questioned.
The conversation soon flowed into the lack of laws regarding match-fixing in India. There was no law in 2000, 2013 or even today. “There is no law regarding match fixing in the Parliament but there definitely is, as far as BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) is concerned. This rose out of certain incidents that happened during the IPL (Indian Premier League) games and the IPL has a handbook of its own, which is crafted by the BCCI. And that handbook has a bunch of codes, for example, code of conduct for players and a specific anti-corruption code as well. The provisions of these codes were not being used in the manner they were created by the BCCI administration,” Sankaranarayan said. “The belief was that this is because those who had to administer the code were connected to people against whom the code had to be administered. So the Supreme Court, in its first judgement, extracted and laid down the provisions of those codes and how they have been violated. The Lodha committee had to decide on the nature of the punishment,” he added.
Mr. Sankaranarayan is also an advocate at the Supreme Court. He was involved in the 2005 Zee telefilms vs. UOI (Union of India) case. “I was assisting the counsel appearing for the BCCI in that case. The argument is limited to whether a petition in the Supreme Court could directly be brought under Article 32 of the Constitution against the body which was claiming not to be a state under Article 12. In that, by a judgement of 3:2, the Supreme Court said that the BCCI cannot be equated with state,” he stated.
On that note, we asked for his opinion on RTIs (Right to information) filed on the BCCI. He thinks that if one decides to bring the board under the RTI, things would not always work in his favour. “The RTI requires certain terms to be fulfilled as per the terms of the act. Many RTI activists have been objecting to the fact that the scope of the information that you will receive from public authorities under the RTI has been gradually reducing. They use the loopholes under the act to not give you information,” he said.
Should boards like All India Football Federation face the same fate as the BCCI, we ask. “Absolutely,” he says. “Even when Priyaranjan Dasmunshi went into a coma, he continued as the president of the AIFF for six months until it was handed over to Praful Patel. The system is such that you can continue in office for many years. Team sports in India suffer a lot because it is in control of a few individuals who handle the sport. If we had a national sports code imposed, we would have fixed tenures, ceiling limits, representation from actual footballers, and a fairly democratic setup that is running, along with accountability and transparency. We would have people who are responsible to have the funds and the facilities provided at our stadiums,” Mr. Sanakaranarayan remarked.
He surprised us with his insights on the Supreme Court judgement barring candidates to seek votes on grounds of caste, creed and religion. “Most media outlets have reported that politicians can’t seek votes on the basis of religion, caste, etc. That’s not what the judgement is about!” he says. “The judgement sounded very cool, something to make a beast out of, that look, we’ve got the Government on the back foot. The BJP has come to power invoking that provision. But the actual judgement is this: If you’re a Christian, Muslim or any other religion except Hinduism, and if you go and seek votes on the basis of your religion, you stand to lose your candidacy and be expelled for six years. But if a Hindu does that and asks for votes because he is a Hindu, no problem! How many media houses told you this? How many talking heads on evening television have told you that? This is what happens when you want to crack a story first; you lose sight of the main story,” he concluded, with a warning to the budding journalists at NSoJ.