18 Apr

Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) has, over the last four months, paid Rs 1.63 crore (US$228 thousand) to its lawyers, standing counsel and ombudsman while its coaching and support staff wait for payment due to them. The fees arise from the regular internal disputes in the faction-ridden cricket body. The association has been rocked by disputes for several years and allegations over corruption and on 16 November 2019, Rajat Sharma, president DDCA resigned alleging serious irregularities.

In some cases, the state association has ended up paying the legal bill of both the DDCA groups involved in a court battle. One particular lawyer has been paid Rs 45 lakh (US$$6,300) since November. In contrast Delhi men’s team coach KP Bhaskar is owed Rs 24 lakh, while bowling coach Raj Kumar Sharma has a contract of Rs 20 lakh. Atul Wassan, who was the chief selector till December, confirmed that he hasn’t received a penny yet. “I was told I would be paid 60 per cent of the amount due to me but till date I have not received any money from the DDCA,” Wassan said. Those left unpaid because of the corona virus include masseurs, trainers, physiotherapists and team managers of senior and age-group teams fielded in various competitions, but the legal bills have been regularly paid.

The fees of DDCA ombudsman Justice (retired) Deepak Verma, the man who looks into complaints, has accounted for nearly one-fourth of the legal bill. Since being appointed in late December, he has cost the DDCA Rs 37.62 lakh. DDCA joint secretary Rajan Manchanda says the legal bills have been high since November because members are filing cases and also hiring top lawyers for petty matters. “When certain procedures followed during the annual general body meeting of the DDCA were challenged in court, president Rakesh Bansal and secretary Vinod Tihara used the services of two senior lawyers to represent them in the High Court. The total bill raised by these two lawyers was Rs 41 lakh,” Manchanda said. “I have repeatedly asked the accounts department to furnish details of who paid these two senior lawyers but have got no reply. The previous ombudsman charged the DDCA Rs 27 lakh for the whole year. Why have the fees of the ombudsman been much higher for a period of just three months?”

DDCA member and former India all-rounder Kirti Azad raised the matter of spiralling legal costs in a letter to BCCI ombudsman Justice (retired) DK Jain. “The fact that DDCA employs a whole band of lawyers is ample proof of their priorities. Despite having an Ombudsman, people are running to various courts — lower as well as High Court — to get matters heard. I fail to understand why an Ombudsman’s office was necessary if everything was still to be decided in courts. As we have seen in Delhi, it was a time-tested tactic employed by DDCA office-bearers to engage detractors in lengthy and expensive court procedures. Since there never was any accountability, the management could waste time as well as DDCA’s money, on ‘friendly’ lawyers,” Azad wrote.

As far as delay in payments to coaching and support staff is concerned, Manchanda said that he had cleared cheques for payment but these have not been forwarded to those who have to be paid. “I have not been able to follow up on why the support staff and coach were not paid as I have been kept in the dark,” the joint secretary said. The feud within the state cricket association has only got messier after the ombudsman debarred four officials, including Manchanda, from engaging in any ‘administerial’ or ‘financial’ work on after they claimed that the Apex Council had terminated the contract of DDCA standing counsel and legal advisor Gautam Datta. The ombudsman’s order stated that Manchanda ‘has failed to produce as to how such a majority has been achieved because Apex Council consists of 10 members and whether the rest of the six members approved the said resolution is not known.’

Brian Sturgess


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