A Gambler Running Cricket Affairs
“The submission that respondents 3 (Ansari) and 4 have authority to continue till 31.12.2017 sans substance,” said the High Court in the judgment. “The contention that since Justice Ansari has decided the disputes therefore challenge to his appointment as ombudsman does not deserve acceptance”
Imagine a convicted gambler running the affairs of one of the richest cricket bodies in the country. Yes, it is true! The J&K High court while hearing the case of Jammu & Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) declared that the association secretary, Iqbal Ahmad Shah, a convict in a criminal case under the Gambling Act in 2013 and barred him from holding office.
From past many years, JKCA is in the news for all the wrong things; either it is misappropriation of money or the poor selection of players for matches. The JKCA, led by politicians and office bearers like Iqbal Shah have turned the association into the fiefdom of the politicians and those who manage the affairs in the association.
In J&K, very few people or sportspersons know the association for supporting its talented players, instead, people know JKCA as a mafia that is lead by ’hot headed’ arrogant dons, who ruin the cricketers if they don’t like them. Here, players are selected by the members of association and coaches’ not on merit but on political compulsions. There are also allegations that money gets exchanged during the selection process.
Though, the reputation of many cricket bodies across India are not encouraging and there have been similar allegations about them too but it seems that the J&K Cricket Association has surpassed them all. Recently, in an Under 23 tournament, a match at Mumbai between J&K and Goa was stopped after 13 overs on the court’s order, after JKCA had selected a team on the basis of recommendation rather than talent. Players like Hisham Saleem who is a top quality cricketer was dropped and instead, the JKCA selector’s own son was chosen to play.
Now, the Court has appointed two retired judges as administrators of the Jammu & Kashmir Cricket Association. The court has also declared that the office bearers of the association including the state Sports Minister, Imran Raza Ansari as its President had no authority to elect an ombudsman because they themselves “had incurred disqualification” last year in view of the Lodha Committee recommendations. Going through the contents of this judgement, it means that neither J&K Sports Minister, not his secretary nor other officer bearer now has any decision making authority. Their election or selection to the position has been declared illegal by a sitting judge while hearing the case of the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association on Friday.
The judgment while seeking implementation of the Lodha Committee recommendations in the state’s BCCI-affiliated cricket association has quashed the notification of the ombudsman’s appointment by the J&K Sports Minister.
The court has also declared the General Secretary and Treasurer who are managing the affairs of this important Cricket body, as invalid.
“The office bearers who had incurred disqualification had participated in the meeting in which the ombudsman was appointed, therefore no sanctity can be attached to the appointment of the ombudsman,” said Justice Alok Aradhe while pronouncing his verdict on the case that was decided on October 13. He also appointed Justice C K Prasad, the retired Judge of the Supreme Court and Justice Syed Rafat Alam, the retired Chief Justice of M.P. and Allahabad High Courts “as administrators to ensure free and fair elections” in the J&K Cricket Association.
The Lodha Committee recommendations, accepted by the Supreme Court on July 18, 2017, includes rules on disqualification of office bearers of the cricket associations who are ministers, persons charged for any criminal offence, are aged above 70 years and other grounds.
However, in violation of the Lodha Committee recommendations, seven members, including the ones who faced disqualification in view of the fresh rules, were elected unopposed on July 19 – a day after the apex court accepted the report of former Chief Justice of India Justice R M Lodha on cricket reforms in the country. The working committee, further in a meeting on September 18, 2016, decided to appoint Justice Iqbal Ahmad Ansari retired Chief Justice of Patna High Court as Ombudsman of the Association and this year and issued a notification for his appointment.
The counsel representing Ansari even submitted before the High Court that “in any case that tenure of the elected office bearers of the Association is alive till 31.12.2017.”
However, the judge has overturned the submission of Ansari’s counsel.
“The submission that respondents 3 (Ansari) and 4 have authority to continue till 31.12.2017 sans substance,” said the High Court in the judgment. “The contention that since Justice Ansari has decided the disputes therefore challenge to his appointment as ombudsman does not survive does not deserve acceptance”
The High Court said that it was imperative to appoint administrators for the association since it had no duly elected committee. “The administrators shall have to ensure that the rules of J&K Cricket Association are amended in conformity with recommendations made by the Lodha Committee which has already been accepted by the Supreme Court and thereafter to hold the elections as per the norms fixed by Lodha Committee,” it said. The court has also highlighted the fact that out of INR 120 crore allocated by the BCCI, the office bearers of the JKCA have made embezzlement of Rs 80 crores.
The High Court also asked police to release the seized money to the association. Administrators have been asked to appoint financial advisors for maintenance of proper records. From past many years, there have been serious allegations about the JK Cricket Association being run on the basis of political compulsion.
Investigators could trace the records of INR 80 crores that have been gobbled by the officials running the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association. Though, police had launched investigation to trace the money, however, the office bearers of the association are powerful and nobody dares to take an action against them. Even there are allegations that police too has been dealing leniently with the people accused of siphoning such huge amounts of money.
There are two lobbies in the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association, one is being supported by National Conference (NC) as it has the patronage of NC patron Farooq Abdullah, they have their own body. Till NC was ruling the state, senior Abdullah was managing the affairs of this body. Even there are allegations that money of JKCA was used to help National Conference run its political affairs.
Since NC was in power, nobody dared to question the authority of Farooq Abdullah and if anybody tried to become a whistle blower, he was harassed and threatened. However, after PDP and BJP came to power, the equation changed and reports about corruption surfaced in the media and it also came to fore that crores of rupees are missing from the accounts of Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association.
The other lobby was headed by Sports Minister, Imran Reza Ansari, he too managed to get hold on the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association by managing to ‘’buy’’ their allegiance and they helped Ansari to dislodge Farooq Abdullah from the post of president. Now, court has declared the body led by Ansari as invalid. However, it is a fact that corruption rules the roost in the association and everything here is seen through the prism of money, politics etc. For talent, there seem to be no takers.
It is a good omen that the court has appointed a two member team to hold the elections of JKCA; however, the court should also look into the affairs of affiliated bodies of the JKCA. Most of these associations are being run by people who are politically connected and their affiliations could be easily subverted by powerful people.
The state is currently passing through turmoil and instead of helping youth to grow their talent on the field, the corrupt office bearers of sports bodies are doing everything to discourage them. It is also the responsibility of the government to take this issue seriously as majority of youth in J&K are annoyed with the setup and their efforts to find out peace in the fields is fast diminishing.
If the government doesn’t pay heed to it, then a time will come when the youth will no longer look towards sports for their development and livelihood. Transparency should be the top priority and a good selection process will help to rebuild the image of the government. It is high time for the corrupt to be shown the door and for the young and honest people to be included in the system.
The author is an editor of The Legitimate and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org