When the Koffee Gets You In Soup
By Tanya Choudhary
The shining stars of the cricket fraternity, Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul have brewed themselves up a storm after their racists and sexist comments on the talk show hosted by Karan Johar aired on January 6, 2019 on Star World.
The long winding version short, both the upcoming cricketers, whilst discussing their personal life, ended up, supposedly, “bragging”, about illicit affairs with multiple women, and objectifying them as sexual beings, in overtly crass and rude manner in the show. While KL Rahul sought to get off the hook, claiming that those comments were not his, nor does he support them; neither the cricket fan-base, nor the media, seems to be forgiving over his silent acceptance of the apparent locker-room talk.
What rose after, were the following series of events:
· The show was aired on 6th January 2019.
· The misogynistic and offensive content was much criticized, to the extent that even the talk show host cancelled the airing of the said episode any further, and it was removed from all circulated channels.
· Hardik Pnday and KL Rahul, both took over social media sites to air their apology, which stood too bare and came a little too late.
· Committee of Administrators member Diana Edulji recommended "suspension till further action" against Indian players Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul after the BCCI legal team refused to declare their outrage-evoking comments on women a violation of the code of conduct.
· The BCCI, asked them to explain their conduct and furthermore suspended them for the time-being, from playing in any cricket tournament representating BCCI, as a part of the disciplinary action, whilst the inquiry ensues.
· They were asked to come back from the Australian tour, and were also criticized for their behavior by other members of the cricket fraternity.
· Not only did these players lose their respective endorsements, but also get replaced from the Australian Tour.
· The Committee of Administrators (CoA) of the BCCI had asked the Supreme Court to appoint an ombudsman to enquire into the matter, the suspension is currently lifted.
But the following events go deeper than mere chronology of a media scare, it raises the following questions in our minds:
1. Was the reaction justified?
2. Should these cricketers be kept on a higher pedestal than the celebrities who also speak so candidly on the show?
3. Should they have been suspended?
4. Legally can they be banned or removed from being present on such platforms based on what they said?
In 1931 when the International Cricket Council admitted India as full-fledged member, to be able to play against other nations, and host them, the Board of Cricket Council of India was the body it recognized as the authority to develop, regulate, control, arrange and finance this sport in the country. While it’s an autonomous body, with no government control, it does have its own strict constitution and regulations to be adhered and alleged to. Even though nothing stops the government from creating a parallel body for cricket control, the BCCI’s monopoly and outreach is well-known and un-questionable. Hence, till now, every cricket representation made by India in terms of the Team, or the Players, is a well bound contract, claiming the superiority and allegiance of the BCCI.
The Memorandum of Association and Rules and Regulation of the BCCI reads in its objects and purposes:
“(c) To strive for sportsmanship and professionalism in the game of Cricket and its governance and administration; inculcate principles of transparency and ethical standards in players, team officials, umpires and administrators; and to ban doping, age fraud, sexual harassment and all other forms of inequity and discrimination;”
The Memorandum of Association and Rules and Regulation of the BCCI also read on the conduct of players as:
“The Board shall have the power to call into question the conduct of any player within its jurisdiction and may take such disciplinary action against the player as the Board may deem fit. The Board's decision shall be final”
While the Misconduct and Procedure to deal with guidelines read:
“(ii) In the event if any complaint being received from any quarter or based on any report published or circulated on its own motion, in the subject matter of any act or indiscipline or misconduct or violation of any Rules and Regulation by any Player, Umpire, Team Official, Selector or any person appointed or employed by BCCI, The President shall refer the same within 48 hours to a commissioner appointed by the President to make a preliminary enquiry.
(iii)… In the event any party refuses and or fails to appear despite notice, the Committee shall be at liberty to proceed ex-parte on the basis of the available records and evidence…The decision of the committee shall be final and binding and shall come into force forthwith on being pronounces and delivered.”
This clears up the air on the legality of their suspension from the matches, and their ban from participating in such shows, as the BCCI has every right under its Constitution and Regulations to go forth with the above. But despite the power of the Board to do so, there was still criticism on this move, as there were sections calling them out for such harsh punishments. Let’s review if such a call was justified, or should they have been treated on the same pedestal as other people on the show, and let off easy, in the name of a candid conversation.
In the wake of #MeToo movement and feminist propagandas finally getting the wave they deserve, people are becoming aware to the widespread and patriarchy and the nonchalant way in which our culture allows for the sexualization of women. Better yet, people are finally coming forward and not shying away from calling out those who still participate in such activities. While there are people saying that such a punishment was too harsh on the boys, especially in the wake of the Australian Series, I believe differently and here’s why:
· Cricket the Gentleman’s Game comes with a proud legacy of a sport known for its class both in terms of the game as well as its players. Nothing short of a religion in our country, where the people could name every cricketer down to the thirteenth man in the team, over their legislators or ministers, these cricketers are influencers in ways that isn’t easy to comprehend. But with great power comes great responsibility, and both Mr. Pandya and Mr. KL Rahul failed to deliver on the same.
· Unlike the Bollywood stars who appear on the show, these cricketers do not owe their fame to their country’s territorial population, but represent the nation on a worldwide scale, over various international tournaments and are often ipso facto spokesperson of the country’s culture and values.
· The show was not an in-house commentary on the locker-room talks, as they claim, but instead a household show, publicized on an international network.
· The reach of the players, along with the reach of the show, should have put them into greater precaution of the way the carry and represent their team and themselves. They were displayed on a greater scrutiny than their counterpart Bollywood celebs, as agony aunt gossip does not hold accountability to the extent of what the national representatives have to speak about the women of the country.
· The punishment, though harsh, is necessary. Whenever an exemplary punishment is set in the eyes of the people, it creates a benchmark of the expected behavior and norms from the players. Despite what people might say about any previous silence over any such statements, we should be happy, that finally the calls of misogyny are being suppressed and the people with power to influence are being held accountable for their use of the same.
In hopes that this might act as a deterrent for any such future conduct, we are proud and stand in support of the steps taken by BCCI.
 Zee Telefilms v. Union of India, 2002 (2) SCC 333.