NEW DELHI, Jan 4, (AFP): A panel appointed by India’s Supreme Court on Monday proposed sweeping changes to the country’s scandal-hit cricket board and said gambling should be made legal. The panel headed by former chief justice Rajendra Mal Lodha was appointed after a string of corruption scandals at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Its report, seen by AFP, recommends barring politicians from the sport’s governing body and introducing time limits on holding office. It also suggests legalising betting after a popular Twenty20 tournament run by the BCCI, the Indian Premier League (IPL), was rocked by allegations of corruption, match-fixing and crooked umpires.
“As far as betting alone is concerned … it would serve both the game and economy if it were legalised,” the report suggests, with several riders. Gambling is mostly illegal in India, but betting on cricket matches thrives through networks of underground bookies. Lodha’s panel was formed in January last year to recommend changes after the top court found two IPL franchise owners guilty of betting on the outcome of matches in 2013. In July it suspended the Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) teams, triggering the resignation of former BCCI chief Narayanaswami Srinivasan.
He was found guilty of a conflict of interest for being at the helm of Indian Cements which owns CSK. The panel exonerated IPL chief operating officer Sundar Raman, citing lack of evidence, after it was tasked to investigate match-fixing allegations against him. “I have heard that I have been given a clean chit and I appreciate it,” Raman, who resigned in November, told the Press Trust of India news agency. Lodha said the BCCI should bar ministers and government officials as well as anyone over 70 from holding office and impose a three-year maximum term for holding office.
The panel also suggests a separate executive body for the IPL as well as the appointment of an independent ombudsman, and ethics and electoral officers to address grievances and conflicts of interest. The BCCI, which generates huge revenues due to its vast television audiences, should also be brought under India’s Right to Information Act to ensure accountability, the panel added.