SC hearing on cooling-off period for Ganguly, Shah on Wednesday

As per the current BCCI constitution, approved by the Supreme Court, Board president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah will have to step aside for a mandatory three-year cooling-off period in September, when the next Annual General Meeting (AGM) is scheduled. Both, and also joint secretary Jayesh George, have already served six years as office-bearers, in state associations and cricket board combined, and going by the constitution, need to vacate their posts for a mandatory lay-off.

The BCCI, however, seeks an amendment to the cooling-off clause and has filed a plea before the apex court in this regard. At long last, the matter will be up for hearing on Wednesday. The last Supreme Court hearing on BCCI matters took place in April 2021.

The BCCI had filed an application to water down the cooling-off clause for office-bearers two-and-a-half years ago and the Supreme Court was supposed to hear the matter in July 2020, via video conferencing, before a Bench comprising then Chief Justice of India (CJI) Justice SA Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao.

But it didn’t take place. The matter was unresolved during the April 16, 2021 hearing last year as well. Both Justice Bobde and Justice Nageswara Rao have retired, while the amicus curiae, PS Narasimha, has been elevated as a judge. On Wednesday, a three-judge Bench comprising CJI NV Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli would take up the matter for hearing.

Ganguly became Cricket Association of Bengal joint secretary in 2014 before becoming the state association president a year later. He took charge of the BCCI as its chief in October 2019. Going by the existing constitution, Ganguly’s six-year term as an office-bearer ended in 2020.

Shah became an office-bearer of the Gujarat Cricket Association in 2013 before moving to the BCCI as its secretary six years later. George’s six-year term ended in August 2020.

The BCCI constitution says: “An office-bearer who has held any post for two consecutive terms either in a state association or in the BCCI (or a combination of both) shall not be eligible to contest any further election without completing a cooling-off period of three years.”

In December 2019, the BCCI filed an application before the Supreme Court, with a request to amend its constitution, including the watering down of the clauses about the cooling-off period, changes in disqualification criteria, curbing the chief executive’s powers and conflict of interest. It also sought an amendment to Rule 45 that made the Supreme Court’s nod mandatory for any change in the existing constitution. The proposed amendments had received verbal consent from all 38 members at the cricket board’s 88th AGM. Another application was filed in this regard in April 2020, but due to the Covid-19 outbreak, normal court proceedings were disrupted.

It would be interesting to see how the hearing pans out on Wednesday, with some legal heavyweights in attendance. The apex court has permitted senior advocate Harish Salve to appear virtually on Wednesday.

State association office-bearers, too, will also be keeping a close eye on proceedings. Some of them have completed their respective six-year terms. According to a few officials, the BCCI’s functioning could be hampered if continuity is broken, with India hosting the ICC World Cup (50-over format) next year. Then again, the existing BCCI constitution has been approved by the highest court of the country.

Meanwhile, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has filed an intervention petition before the Supreme Court, opposing the BCCI’s move.

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