By Qaiser Mohammad Ali
New Delhi, Dec 8 (IANS) When the Supreme Court on Wednesday hears a bunch of interlocutory applications in the Indian cricket reforms case, the Indian Railways’ application, seeking several reliefs, including permission for its (government) officials to attend meetings of the Indian cricket board, might not come up. But when it does come up, Railways would also have to deal with a new association of former Railways cricketers seeking to attend Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) meetings.
The Indian Railways Cricketers’ Association (IRCA) has registered itself under Section 10 of the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975 (Tamil Nadu Act 27 of 1975) in Chennai. IRCA has also written to the Railways Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) to let its representative attend meetings of the BCCI. But the RSPB has flatly declined to entertain its plea, saying it patronises 29 sports disciplines and it can’t give special treatment to cricket and its former cricketers.
Former Railways players were encouraged to form the association after the Supreme Court approved a new constitution of the BCCI that says that only a representative elected by an association of former cricketers would be eligible to attend and vote at BCCI meetings. RSPB is contesting this rule (3)(E) of the constitution.
RSPB had filed an affidavit long ago, and had even fielded then Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi in 2017, when he had pleaded for a complete recall of the Supreme Court’s historic judgment of July 18, 2016, that called for reforms in Indian cricket. Rohatgi, in fact, represented the Services as well as the Association of Indian Universities, who all were also asked to nominate a player representative, similarly elected as the RSPB’s, for attending/voting at BCCI meetings.
RSPB’s application may come up for hearing only the next year, but for the time being it has to deal with IRCA.
On Tuesday, RSPB secretary Prem Chand Lochab outrightly rejected to acknowledge IRCA, saying that it has to treat all 29 sports disciplines fairly.
“Railways have about 10,000 players — and there would probably be 10,000 other retired Railways players – so, if they one by one form such associations and come to us, the department would not be bothered or concerned about that. In how many sports we would deal with such associations, if they crop up? We are a department, after all,” Lochab told IANS.
IRCA, on the other hand, says it has been formed not just to attend BCCI meetings, but for the welfare of retired Railways cricketers.
In its affidavit, RSPB has cited its contribution to Indian sports, both nationally and internationally, including at the Olympic Games, over more than 90 years and the employment opportunities that it provides athletes.
“It is respectfully submitted the judgment [of July 18, 2016] of this Hon’ble Court has impacted the Railways severally, and has relegated it to the status of a second class citizen within the BCCI and has not recognised the contribution and importance of the applicant to the development of sport in India,” says its affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court.
“It has produced over 200 Olympians so far. Railways has contributed to 12 of the 21 Olympic medals [since the formation of Railways board] that India has won so far. It has about 3,000 active sportspersons,” states the affidavit.
RSPB, a member of 29 national sports federations, also claimed that it provides “employment opportunities to more than 400 sportspersons each year”.
“RSPB is at present a full member of the BCCI with voting rights. RSPB has established sizeable infrastructure with a large number of BCCI-approved cricket grounds/stadium such as Karnail Singh Stadium, New Delhi, DMW Cricket Ground, Patiala; Railways Cricket Ground, Rajkot; Railways Cricket Stadium, Bhubaneswar; DLW Cricket Ground, Varanasi, Cricket Ground, Varanasi; Cricket Ground, Guwahati; Railways Cricket Ground, Dhanbad; and various other stadiums throughout the country,” said affidavit submitted in January 2017.
“…from Lala Amarnath and Nari Contractor to Murali Kartik and Sanjay Bangar; Diana Edulji to Mithali Raj, Railways has groomed scores of international cricketers. With more than 500 men and women cricketers on its roll, the RSPB has been an integral part of BCCI, flagging not only important issues and providing voice to its players but also having a say in the issues impacting the cricketers,” it said.
RSPB particularly pointed out its contribution to women’s cricket in India.
“The Indian women’s cricket team predominantly compromises of Railway cricketers, with 11-12 of them forming a part of the national contingent at any given point in time. The Board, by being relegated to a non-voting member, would lose its identity, representation and have no say or stake in cricketing affairs despite being one of the largest contributions to the game of cricket and providing employment opportunities to the persons playing the game,” says the document.
A formal railways sports body, named Indian Railways Athletic Association, came into existence in 1928, and its name was changed to the Railways Sports Control Board in 1956, and then to RSPB in 1998.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court bench, comprising Justice L. Nageswara Rao, Justice Hemant Gupta, and Justice Ajay Rastogi, is likely to hear a spate of interlocutory applications only, as the amicus curiae and senior advocate, P.S. Narasimha, had told IANS a few days ago.
The main case (4235/2014), pertaining to the much-delayed reforms in Indian cricket, might be heard only the next year.
The Supreme Court would be on winter vacation from December 18 to January 1, and that would mean that three key BCCI office-bearers whose terms have expired — president Sourav Ganguly, secretary Jay Shah, and joint secretary Jayesh George — would continue in the chair, until a final verdict is pronounced.