Qaiser Mohammad Ali
The noose seems to be tightening around the necks of those who have been allegedly involved in illegal activities, including financial irregularities, at the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), where cricket has come to a screeching halt and politics has taken over.
The hope of a few good and honest men left at the DDCA emanates from a principled and unflinching stand that a court-appointed two-member election commission has taken with regard to the onerous task of election of the sports working committee (SWC) of the DDCA.
Many people at the Kotla – and outside of it- say that one of the root causes of the corruption in the DDCA is the process to choose 10 members of the SWC, which is through election and this has been happening for 20 years. Over a period of time, the stakes for the SWC election have become incredibly high. Testament to this is how the campaign for this month’s election has become venomous, malicious crossing all limits of gentlemanly behaviour for which cricket is known.
The SWC has outgrown the mandate it was originally given – to organise and manage local cricket – and has become a Frankenstein monster that is now getting out of control or, as many now feel, it has already gone out of control.
But every dark cloud has a silver lining. And amid the deteriorating management and law and order situation at the DDCA, Additional District Judge (Central) Vinod Kumar of Tis Hazari Courts, while responding to a petition from a DDCA member, appointed a two-member election panel that has given rise to hope.
Luckily for the few honest men at the DDCA, the petition went to the court of Vinod Kumar, who, in 2013, had convicted the then Haryana chief minister, Om Prakash Chautala, his son Ajay, and 50-odd others in the teachers’ recruitment scam.
For the SWC election, Vinod Kumar appointed two Retired Additional & Sessions Judges, who are also known for their honesty and integrity.
GP Thareja, who heads the election commission, had sentenced Sushil Sharma to death for murdering his wife Naina Sahni and burning her body in a tandoor in 1995, a case that became famous as the ‘Tandoor murder case’. Thareja’s election commission colleague, Babu Lal, is said to be no less honest and upright.
“Both have been visiting the DDCA headquarters at the Ferozeshah Kotla for over two months, but they have not taken any favour from anyone. They are so honest that they have politely declined even offers of tea or even water. They bring their own water bottles from home,” a DDCA official told jantakareporter.com.
“One day we suggested to them that since they are not accepting water and tea etc. from us, we could send a person who could buy tea from outside the Kotla with their [judges’] money. But they declined that too,” he informed. “Also, they are extremely punctual, and have not even given their mobile numbers to anyone, barring probably one or two persons.”
Now, after witnessing their functioning and approach towards the task at hand, no one at the DDCA has the guts to annoy them, leave alone taking them on.
On Thursday, when someone dared to tell him that due to the time they taking in declaring the results of the sports working committee, “cricket was suffering” as they were not able to prepare for the new domestic season which starts this month, Thareja reportedly lost his cool.
“He got extremely angry when told that cricket was suffering due to the delay in declaration of election results. He replied that he was at the Kotla not to run cricket; he told him in clear terms that he was here to conduct election and that he wouldn’t leave until the exercise was complete,” someone who heard the argument told jantakareporter.com.
“The judge also told him that he knows everything about those who run cricket at the DDCA, and also hinted that he knows about all of those who illegally make money from cricket,” he said.
In another hard-hitting decision, Thareja has asked the DDCA office-bearers to furnish the minutes’ register of both the DDCA executive committee of the last 15 years, starting from 2000, so that he could crosscheck the name change of certain clubs. The name change dispute has arisen in relation to the SWC election.
The onus is now on the DDCA office-bearers to produce the minutes’ registers. Sources say that certain office-bearers have already said that the registers were not available. It remains to be seen how Thareja tackles this.
To change the name of a club, its owner/secretary has to deposit a fee of Rs 25,000 with the DDCA and then the association executive committee has to ratify the name change. Thareja wants to ascertain that the 15 clubs that are alleged to have changed their names without going through proper procedure. That is why he has asked for the minutes’ registers.
The election commission derives its powers from a strong-worded order that Judge Vinod Kumar passed on June 30. “It is made clear that this is all powerful Election Commission
empowered to conduct the elections and to take any decision in this regard. The Commission may also take assistance from any quarters in conducting their functions. The Election Commission will decide the entire procedure & programme of election,” read the order.
In the same order, Vinod Kumar also gave six weeks for the commission to complete the election process. But Thareja and Babu Lal have found a huge mess and they are still trying to address the contentious issues.
One such issue pertains to international umpire Anil Kumar Chaudhary, who was part of a group contesting the SWC election, but withdrew his candidature through an email addressed to a few people in the DDCA, including the leader of his group.
However, the news of his withdrawal was deliberately concealed because otherwise that would have weakened the position of Chaudhary’s group in the September 1 election, alleged a member of the opposition camp in an application in the on-going case between Vinod Tihara and DDCA and others.
Judge Vinod Kumar rejected the application, but did not rule out admitting the case of Chaudhary’s candidature withdrawal in future, saying that he could not admit it until the election process was over. This seems to have given more teeth to Thareja and Babu Lal.
Meanwhile, on Friday evening Bishan Singh Bedi, Kirti Azad and Akash Lal met the election commission at the Kotla and requested them for re-election. But the commission politely told them that it was not possible, though the retired judges appreciated the issues they raised.