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June 2, 2000


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Prem Panicker with Faisal Shariff

AS we write this, India is playing Sri Lanka in Dhaka. And the Bangabandhu Stadium, which in earlier days used to be full even for no account games, is not even one quarter full today.

Do the administrators need a more graphic illustration of the fact that the average fan, disgusted by recent events, is staying away from the stadia in droves?

Match fixing is on everyone's mind. And the attention is focussed, entirely, on the various players named in the scam. While on that subject, it is interesting that with Nayan Mongia coming in to the side in place of Saba Karim, all four Indians whose names figure in various allegations are back on active duty with the squad. Which, I guess, tells us just how serious the board is about what is easily the game's biggest scandal.

And that in turn brings up a question that has been bothering us for a while now. It is blindingly obvious that the BCCI has been consistently mismanaging the affairs of Indian cricket. It is equally obvious that the BCCI has no intention of cleaning up its act.

Why, then, should we stand by while the BCCI sends out teams that ostensibly represent India? And fly the Indian flag at tournaments?

Look at it this way: the BCCI says it is autonomous. The BCCI does not submit to the authority of the government of India. The BCCI also believes it is not answerable to the people of this country.

So why then should they be permitted to send out an 'Indian' team? In football, hockey, athletics, etc, the various associations are affiliated to the sports ministry and as such, come under the purview of the government. The government, thus, authorises them to send out teams that represent the country. The board, however, has no such authority, because it is neither affiliated to the Indian government, nor does it submit to its control.

Isn't it time someone filed a PIL, restraining the BCCI from sending out what it calls the 'India XI'? At best, the board can send out a BCCI XI. The team can fly the BCCI flag. And that is all it should be permitted to do, until and unless it relinquishes its autonomy and submits to the same controls as other sports associations.

In the hoopla surrounding the Prabhakar tapes, our attention is being diverted yet again from the doings of the BCCI. To our way of thinking, if there is one reason why cricket is in such a sorry mess today, it is because the Indian board has, over the years, been content to play its own games, and turn a blind eye to what was going on out there on the field of play.

In the past few days, we've received quite a few mails asking the identical question -- why is the board so reluctant to act?

The short answer is simply this: cricket administration in this country has, down the years, managed to keep away from the public spotlight. And in that time, corruption has been institutionalised to such an extent that even a Socrates, with his proverbial lantern, would find it difficult to spot an honest man in all that murk.

For instance, take the affairs of the Rajasthan Cricket Association. For starters, why are we talking of the RCA? Because that is the home ground of Purushottam Rungta. A former president of the BCCI. The treasurer of the board, when I S Bindra and Jagmohan Dalmiya were president and secretary respectively of the BCCI. An acknowledged power in Indian cricket circles. And the man, you will remember, who recently sprang, alongside Kamal Morarka, to the defense of Jagmohan Dalmiya when some noise was made over various TV rights deals.

The RCA was registered, under the Societies Act 1958, on 18/2/1987. Till then, interestingly, it was not even a registered -- read, official -- body, functioning merely on the basis of the BCCI's ad hoc affiliation. In other words, the body that ran Rajasthan cricket had, till 1987, no official standing whatsoever.

It was on November 11, 1986 that an executive committee meeting was summoned to frame a constitution for the newly registered association. A new constitution was drawn up, and 10 new members were inducted into the managing committee. The new constitution was registered officially in February 1987, as mentioned above, with registration number 267/86-87. At that point, however, there was no ratification by the AGM. When some sections within Rajasthan cricket circles began making a noise about this, an AGM was held on April 30, 1987 -- two months and more after the actual registration -- to ratify the constitution.

Never mind, this can be passed off as a mere procedural lapse. But the story of the RCA gets even more interesting from there on.

A constitution was, as mentioned, registered and filed with the Registrar of Societies, Government of Rajasthan. But that is not the constitution the RCA produces for general circulation. Listed below, are the salient points of difference between the constitution we are shown, and the official one on file with the registrar:

1) In the officially registered constitution, it is mandatory for any member of the association to reside within Rajasthan. In the one in general circulation, this clause has been done away with. We'll go into the reason for this later in this article.

2) In the registered constitution, all office bearers have to be directly elected by the general body of the RCA. In the one in common circulation, the general body is only allowed to elect the executive, which then elects the office bearers -- a provision that violates the law governing the functioning of such associations.

3) Rule 20 of the circulated constitution stipulates that any alteration or amendment of the rules and regulations governing the association can be carried out with just one third -- one third -- of the members present and voting. The official constitution has no such clause, for obvious reasons, since this again violates laws governing the functioning of registered associations.

4) The registered constitution provides that any member desirous of contesting elections for posts in the RCA has to make an application at least 26 days in advance. The circulated constitution does away with these niceties. In fact, the circulated constitution does away with election of office bearers by the general body altogether.

5) The circulated constitution, unlike the registered one, prohibits anyone from suing the association -- a clause elaborated on elsewhere in this article.

That, then, is the situation that saw a virtual takeover of the functioning of the RCA by the Rungtas. A situation that led to a civil suit (Deva Ram Chaudhary Vs RCA, PM Rungta, Kishore Rungta, Rajsingh Dungarpur and Vinod Mathur), filed in the court of the civil judge (junior division), Barmer in July 1998.

The case seeks to get the court to provide the following reliefs:

1. That the RCA had fraudulently made 67 individual voting members, in addition to 32 affiliated district cricket associations, and given them voting rights. The petitioner prayed that all 67 members be struck off the rolls as they were included fraudulently; that the majority of these 67 members were family members, relatives and friends of the Rungta family; and that voting rights given to them were in conflict with the objectives narrated in the Memorandum of Association of the constitution of the RCA.

2. That two of the office bearers of the RCA, namely Mr Raj Singh Dungarpur (vice president) and Mr Vinod Mathur (joint secretary) were neither among the 67 members, nor were they office bearers of any district association. As such, they were not eligible to hold any post in the managing committee of the RCA, which therefore is shown to be illegally constituted. (Incidentally, this is one reason why the 'residence in Rajasthan' clause, which appears in the registered constitution, is not present in the generally circulated one -- if that provision were to be applied, Dungarpur for one could not be an office bearer, since he resides in Mumbai, not Rajasthan).

3. A clause (23(4)), which prohibits any member/authority from suing the RCA has been added to the constitution of the RCA. As the clause is unconstitutional, it should be struck down.

Taken together, what do the above clauses imply? One, that the Rungta family created an association and packed it with dummies who would do their bidding; two, that they brought in friends as office bearers, despite the fact that the friends in question were not qualified to hold that office; and finally, they wrote in a nice little clause stipulating that no one associated with the Rajasthan cricket association could sue them. (Interestingly, the Rungtas' stranglehold on RCA affairs is being doubly challenged here -- because Deva Ram Chaudhary is in fact the secretary of the Barmer District Cricket Association, and as such, one of the affiliates of the RCA. Thus, he is not entitled to sue the RCA -- a clause Chaudhary is challenging by the very fact of having filed the suit).

All very cosy, right?

The case came to court. In course of arguments, a certified copy of the constitution was placed on record before the court. And it turned out that this copy differed from the one that was registered with the Registrar of Cooperative Societies, and the one submitted in the Rajasthan Sports Council.

When this point was brought up, the petitioner, Deva Ram Chaudhary, moved an application before the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Barmer, requesting that cognizance be taken of what constitutes a serious criminal offence, namely, wilfully misleading the courts.

After hearing the application, the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate ordered that a First Information Report be registered, under sections 467, 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code. Accordingly, case no: 220/99 was filed at the Barmer Police Station on October 8, 1999. And the case was then transferred to the CID, Crime Branch, Jaipur, which is now into the final stages of its investigation.

The RCA had filed various objections against the civil suit filed by Deva Ram Chaudhary. These were dismissed by the court, as per its order dated 1/9/99. The court has stayed all elections to the RCA until the ongoing case completes its passage through the courts.

The proceedings of the RCA, meanwhile, are a closely guarded secret. Meetings always take place in the residence of Purushottam Rungta. And why not? Man Structural House, the residence of P M Rungta, has been delineated as the registered official address of the Rajasthan Cricket Association -- a strange case, of a cricket association functioning out of the home of an office bearer.

It makes sense in a way, I guess, since the RCA is pretty much a family concern anyway -- the president is Purushottam Rungta, the chairman of the Rajasthan selection committee is his brother Kishen Rungta, and the secretary is Purushottam's son Kishore Rungta.

By way of aside, Kishore Rungta is himself the subject of a separate suit. Which relates to how he became the president of the Sawai Madhopur District Cricket Association, by dismissing the duly elected body and naming himself president without any proper election.

The minutes of the RCA meetings are filed in Rungta's residence, and kept away from public view. The Registrar of Societies and the Civil Court have written to the RCA, asking for minutes of the various meetings, and annual statements of accounts. However, the RCA -- which effectively reads Rungta -- is yet to comply.

Why, precisely, this secrecy? That is a conundrum that is hard to crack, given that we have not been able to gain access to the minutes of the various meetings. However, one fact throws some light on just how the meetings are conducted: A frequent attendee, whose signature appears on various minutes, is one Mohammad Ayub Ghori aka Ayub Khan Ghori. Who, not so long ago, was detained uner the National Security Act, no less, and spent a year in preventive detention (he was released in January 2000).

Ghori has attended RCA meetings as a representative of the Sikar District Cricket Association -- a body with which he has no real connection. Interestingly, when international matches are organised by the RCA at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur, it is the selfsame Ghori who is contracted by the RCA to provide security.

Remember how, earlier in this article, we had referred to 67 'members' whose names had been fraudulently included? Some of these 'members' are in fact employees of various companies owned and operated by the Rungtas. Man Structurals, thus, is the company owned by Purushottam Rungta and Kishore Rungta. And Man Industries, now defunct, is owned by Kishan Rungta.

Surprise, surprise -- when you go through the names of members of the RCA, you come across one Gopal Tiwari (administration officer, Man Structurals). A Ghanshyam Tiwari, who just happens to be a Man Structurals accountant. A Ram Kumar, who happens to be a clerk in Man Structurals. And a few others, members of the RCA as per the rolls, who are paid employees of the Rungtas.

Another 'member' is P R Mansingh, who is in fact attached to the Hyderabad Cricket Association. Yet another is, interestingly, one Inderjit Singh Bindra, former BCCI president. Who, when this matter was brought to his notice when the case hit the court docket, stated on record that he was not even aware that his name had been included in the members list of the RCA.

But even more interestingly, the RCA boasts a 'member' who is today the biggest name in cricket administration.

That's right -- Jagmohan Dalmiya, chairman of the ICC, and president of the Cricket Association of Bengal, adorns the rolls of the RCA as one of its members. Despite the fact that Dalmiya does not fulfill a single criterion for membership of the RCA, as spelt out in the official, registered, constitution.

The Jaipur Crime Branch cops, now investigating the alleged fraud perpetrated by the RCA on the court, is expected to file its final report shortly.

Prem Panicker

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