BCCI finds Supreme Court unrelenting

The two-hour hearing, focussing on the BCCI reply to the Justice Lodha report, was marked by frequent pertinent questions from the Bench, which challenged the BCCI.

The Supreme Court raised counter-questions when the BCCI submitted its objections to some of the Lodha Committee recommendations.   -  Reuters

Assuming total control even after the BCCI or the State Cricket Associations tried to pick holes in the Justice Lodha Committee recommendations, the Supreme Court on Thursday said it will not allow these cricketing bodies and their administrators to “filibuster” or delay the much-needed reforms to bring purity back into Indian cricket.

> Read: The BCCI affidavit

“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?” the Chief Justice of India T. S. Thakur countered in a tone laced with sarcasm.

The Bench, also comprising Justice F. M. I. Kalifulla, was responding to a cackle of complaints from various State Cricket associations, all of whom echoed the BCCI’s version that they were not asked for their views by the Lodha panel about the proposed recommendations, which now threaten their basic structure and functioning.

“We want to go back to the Lodha Committee with our views for certain amendments in the report,” senior advocate Kapil Sibal submitted for the Baroda Cricket Association.

"We will decide"

“There is no question of you wanting it. We, the Supreme Court, will decide whether we are inclined to send some restricted issues back to the committee for its decision, that too within a limited span of time... Lodha Committee costs a lot of money for BCCI. It is not an easy committee,” Chief Justice Thakur said.

The court allowed a batch of State Cricket Associations and former players such as Bishan Singh Bedi and Kirti Azad to intervene in the case and posted it for further hearing on March 18.

The two-hour hearing, focussing on the BCCI reply to the Justice Lodha report, was marked by frequent pertinent questions from the Bench, which challenged the BCCI.

One of them was why the BCCI and the State cricketing bodies have ministers in them. The Lodha report had banned government servants and ministers. But the BCCI said these people, like former minister N. K. P. Salve, lend “leadership and experience” to cricket administration.

“So just because N. K. P. Salve was there, you want every other minister also to be there? You are finding fault with having a nominee of the Comptroller and Auditor General on your governing council, but you don’t mind a minister?” the Chief Justice asked senior advocate K. K. Venugopal, who was fielded by the BCCI.

Chief Justice Thakur said ministers come to appease their own sense of aggrandisement, but why should the BCCI insist on their involvement?

"Silence is eloquent"

When Mr. Venugopal had no answer, Chief Justice Thakur smiled and said, “Mr. Venugopal, your silence is eloquent.”

To the BCCI's objection to the Lodha panel recommendation on an age cap of 70 for cricket administrators, Chief Justice Thakur replied, tongue in cheek, “Lawyers like you get better with age, is that so with cricketers too? I don't know. We feel 70 is a good age for retirement. At 70, they should sit at home and watch cricket on TV.”

The court also asked why cricket administrators should wear two hats and have simultaneous memberships in both the BCCI and State bodies.

At one point, an embattled BCCI side, told the Bench that the Lodha report has also praised them for good work done. Mr. Venugopal said the Indian side is a dominant force in cricket and the team occupies the top spots in T20 and other formats.

“Yes, the players have managed despite the BCCI,” Chief Justice Thakur intervened.

Comparison with FIFA

On the BCCI’s comparison that the Lodha panel recommendation for “one member, one State, one vote” policy would lead to corruption like the one seen in FIFA, Chief Justice Thakur asked how many such incidents FIFA had experienced before.

“If this is the first scandal in 50 or 100 years, it is hardly a test on the workability of the policy,” the Bench said.

Then the BCCI complained that Justice Lodha had recommended voting rights based on territorial boundaries of States. It said the BCCI had demarcated boundaries on cricketing levels of various places leading to Maharashtra and Gujarat having multiple existing members in the BCCI.

“Who gave you the authority to demarcate territories? How can someone start a Cricket association and demarcate the entire country for themselves?” Chief Justice Thakur countered.

Question on auditing

The Bench then asked whether the BCCI does an audit of the money it gives to State Cricket associations.

“You give crores to these State associations run by some politician or bureaucrat and no questions are asked... is this done to ensure they vote in a particular way?” Chief Justice Thakur asked the BCCI.

The Bench asked the BCCI to submit details of amounts given to cricket associations and their expenditure for the past five years.

The BCCI then complained about the Lodha report suggestion for a drastic reduction in advertisements during matches. This was done to give top priority to “viewer enjoyment”. The BCCI said this would cripple its finances.

“The prominent spirit should be viewer enjoyment. Do you mean that your commerce should overtake the enjoyment of the game?” Chief Justice Thakur asked.

Rules so sacrosanct?

Again, to the BCCI’s objection about having a CAG nominee on its governing council, the Bench hit back asking whether the Board considered its rules so sacrosanct that not even the Supreme Court could intervene.

“You don’t even want the CAG nominee on the outside as your conscience keeper? Suppose we ask you to put this nominee on the board, you fear that the ICC will disenfranchise you for complying with an order of the Supreme Court of India to have a person who gives you good advice... surely you don’t grudge good advice, do you?” Chief Justice Thakur asked.

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