‘Adoption’ policy in IPL might lead to another conflict of interest

It’s been more than 48 hours since the Justice Lodha Committee pronounced its verdict on the IPL scandal, but there seems to be no clarity on the interpretation bit.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is keeping its cards close to its chest, saying that a collective decision will be taken at the IPL governing council meeting in Mumbai on Sunday (July 19). Some officials, however, have spoken to the media out of turn and off the record. One such suggestion doing the rounds is that the BCCI should ‘adopt’ Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR), and allow them to play under its banner.

If implemented, experts say, this will spell doom for the BCCI as it will find itself mired in yet another ‘conflict of interest’ web.

A legal expert told dna that if the BCCI were to allow CSK and RR to play under its aegis, then it would be “worse than N Srinivasan being team owner and BCCI president at the same time”.

“The IPL is only a sub-committee of the BCCI. How can the BCCI even think of running these teams when it is the owner of the tournament? It will cease to be a level-playing field if this happens. The other six franchises can drag the BCCI to court on several fronts, including criminal breach of trust,” the source said.

“Remember the franchises pay the BCCI a ‘franchise fee’ to play in the IPL. In other words, the BCCI also has an obligation to keep the competition clean. It can’t simply ‘adopt’ two teams when it owns the property that is the IPL. It would be grossly unfair on the other reams.

“Let’s assume that a college is hosting a cultural festival. How would the participants react if the host institution were to allow its students to take part in the fest? And wouldn’t everyone cry ‘rigging’ if the hosts keep on winning prizes?” added the source.

According to the lawyer, the best option before the BCCI is to terminate the franchises. “Clause 11.3 (c) of the BCCI-IPL franchise agreement mentions the agreement can be terminated if the franchise, any franchise group company and/or any owner acts in any way which has a material adverse effect upon the reputation or standing of the league, BCCI-IPL, BCCI, the franchise, the team (or any other team in the league) and/or the game of cricket. It has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that these teams are in breach of the franchise agreement. It is, therefore, the BCCI’s prerogative to terminate these agreements,” the counsel said.

When asked why the Justice Lodha Committee didn’t exercise this right, he said, “The Justice Lodha Committee would have exceeded its brief by terminating the franchises. The committee’s job was to announce the quantum of punishment. Scrapping the teams is the BCCI’s job,” he added.

Justice Lodha was quoted, as telling a television channel, exactly this. “It is for the BCCI to consider terminating the teams and the Supreme Court judgment is clear on that. The BCCI can do that. We have been appointed as a disciplinary committee and Clause 11.3 deals with contractual obligation and that has to be dealt by BCCI, so we can’t go into it.”

BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur told dna that the IPL can’t take place with six teams. “It has to be an eight-team league. Six is just not possible,” he said.

He, however, made it clear that the BCCI has not made its official position on the way forward public just as yet. “All this will be decided on Sunday. That’s all I have to say,” he added.