Justice AP Shah’s ruling on conflict of interest: what’s wrong with one man, one post?


Justice (Retd) AP Shah was the chairman of the 20th Law Commission of India and was also the chairman of the committee constituted by the Union Ministry of Finance to look into Minimum Alternate Tax on Foreign Institutional Investors. He also served as the Chief Justice of the Delhi and Madras High Courts.
Justice Shah has been very busy of late, working as the BCCI’s independent Ombudsman. He had to address a lot of conflict of interest allegations related to several individuals, including India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president and IPL governing council member Sourav Ganguly, BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur and national selector Vikram Rathour. And in his first order he has delivered a strong recommendation.
The order ostensibly dealt with Harbhajan’s case but it also veered into a far wider frame. Harbhajan first, and the charge against him was that ‘Bhajji Sports’, an apparel company allegedly owned by the senior offie, provided kit to at least six Ranji teams. Harbhajan refuted the charge. But after checking the facts, Justice Shah cracked the whip, saying: “… given the facts and circumstances of the case, the Ombudsman believes that the best course of action may be that the BCCI take an unequivocal undertaking from Mr Singh that he will no way be involved in the management of the company, Bhajji Sports, and that under no circumstances will he be associated with the company’s products (including by way of sponsorship), so long as his contract with the BCCI is alive.”
Harbhajan now must give an unconditional undertaking to the BCCI to save his India career. But how will some former cricketers and administrators react, now that Justice Shah has addressed the conflict of interest issue in a broader context? Cricket coaching academies, sports management companies and sports apparel manufacturers are the areas that have been listed out and Justice Shah’s observation puts a lot of ex-cricketers – from Dilip Vengsarkar to Sourav Ganguly, and Chetan Chauhan, Brijesh Patel and Arshad Ayub – and IPL governing council member Ajay Shirke in a spot of bother. They all run academies while being active as cricket administrators. They have to take a decision. The issue would be discussed on the sidelines of the BCCI Special General Meeting on Friday and a heated discussion appears likely.
Vengsarkar has described this as “absurd” sticking to the point that “cricketers will run cricket academies”. Shirke believes that an ex-cricketer running a cricket academy benefits the game. To be honest, conflict of interest, to a large extent, depends on perceptions and interpretations. Legal dictionary defines it as: “The situation in which a public official or fiduciary who, contrary to the obligation and absolute duty to act for the benefit of the public or a designated individual, exploits the relationship for personal benefit, typically pecuniary”.
It is arguable if anyone is conflicted with a former cricketer running a cricket academy, but the essence of Justice Shah’s order must not be overlooked. One job at a time, rather than multi-tasking, benefits the whole system. Justice Shah is not stopping anyone to pick an occupation of his choice. Just that he is preventing people from wearing many hats. The BCCI should understand.
- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket/justice-ap-shahs-ruling-on-conflict-of-interest-whats-wrong-with-one-man-one-post/#sthash.Qyzon4z3.dpuf

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