Lodha Panel v BCCI: A timeline

The year began on a sour note for the Board when Justice R. M. Lodha’s panel came up with a report that left the cricket administrators bruised.

Former Chief Justice of India R. M. Lodha (middle) with former judges R. V. Raveendran (left) and Ashok Bhan showing the report, which was submitted in the Supreme Court, during a press conference in New Delhi.   -  R. V. Moorthy

Cricket was as much in the news off the field as on it. Virat Kohli and his team conquered new peaks even as the Board struggled to maintain its reputation in the wake of the Lodha Committee Recommendations.

The year began on a sour note for the Board when Justice R. M. Lodha’s panel came up with a report that left the cricket administrators bruised. The Board’s reputation was jolted as the recommendations included an age cap of 70 years, only one vote for one State and a cooling period of three years after the completion of a term.

The Board had expected some hard recommendations but this left the officials, some with an experience of more than three decades, in a tight spot. The Board did not lose time and passed on the responsibility to its affiliated units to suggest the way out.

In February the Supreme Court took a firm step and a stern message to the Board to make its response known by March 3. The Court obviously had noticed the delaying tactics by the Board. There was no progress on this issue and the Board earned the ire of the Supreme Court for not accepting the Lodha Committee Recommendations.

 

The Board won a small contest when it managed to convince the Supreme Court that some of the recommendations were not in the interest of the game. But the Supreme Court shook the Board with its observations when the Board president Anurag Thakur said he had not been consulted before Justice Lodha finalised the recommendations.

The Supreme Court observed, “It was international news that we had formed the Justice Lodha Committee to suggest reforms in cricket. The whole world knew it. Now you come to us and say the recommendations were a bolt from the blue for you and you were not consulted... What were you doing? Waiting at the fence for a written invitation?”

Worst was in store for the Board on April 5 when the Supreme Court lashed out at the cricket administrators for not keeping a tab on the subsidy given to the affiliated units and, in the process, encouraging corruption.

By mid-April there was talk of enacting a law by the government to take over the conduct of the game. The Court adopted a sterner stand when it told the Board it had to fall in line with the Lodha Committee’s Recommendations.

For cricket in India, July 18, 2016 was a landmark day. The Supreme Court gave its acceptance to the Lodha Recommendations and suggested widespread reforms. It was also made clear that all office-bearers who had completed nine years in the job stood disqualified for another term.

The Board hardly helped its cause by appointing former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju as a “single point interface for the BCCI to interact with the Justice Lodha Committee”, a move that backfired. Katju termed the Supreme Court order illegal and only spoilt the case for the Board. He did not make any appearance for the Board after his public statements on the case.

Humiliation was in store for the Board on September 28 when Justice Lodha and his panel asked for removal of the entire top brass of the Board.

The Board responded by filing a Review Petition seeking recusal of Chief Justice T. S. Thakur from the case. The petition was subsequently dismissed.

 

The Board’s special general meeting in October accepted some of the recommendations. There was turmoil in Indian cricket as the Board hinted at cancelling the ongoing series against New Zealand citing cash crunch as the reason. The series against England was also said to under threat but nothing of the sort happened.

The Board continued to confront the judiciary by announcing that it would hold its AGM on September 21. The Lodha Panel dismissed the suggestions as “meaningless” because the Board had not implemented the recommendations. The Board went ahead and picked a five-member selection panel in defiance of the recommendations.

The Board sought help from the International Cricket Council, which refused to intervene, leading to the Supreme Court holding Anurag Thakur guilty of perjury. But the Board’s reputation took a huge dip when the Supreme Court asked the Board’s bankers not to disburse funds to the State Associations until they fell in line with the Lodha Panel Recommendations.

Talk of an administrator taking over the running of the cricket affairs gained momentum.

On November 21, the Lodha Panel sought the Supreme Court’s clearance on removing the Board’s office-bearers. The final chapter of the sage is set for January 3 when the Supreme Court will announce the way the game would be run in the country.