BCCI-Lodha issue: AG wants recall of SC judgment

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi appeared for the first time in the BCCI-Lodha Committee spat, seeking a complete recall of the Supreme Court's July 18 judgment upholding the Lodha reforms.

A new Supreme Court Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra, on Friday, came in for an unexpected surprise when Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi appeared for the first time in the BCCI-Lodha Committee spat, seeking a complete recall of the Supreme Court's July 18 judgment upholding the Lodha reforms.

Mr. Rohatgi, said he represented Indian Railways, the tri-services of the armed forces and the association of Indian universities. All three of his clients were full members of the BCCI and 'great contributors' to Indian cricket and cricketers, until the Supreme Court upheld the Lodha reforms in its July 18, 2016 judgment which changed the membership pattern on geographical basis of 'One State One Vote'.

The July 18 judgment had unceremoniously downgraded the three from full members to mere 'associated members' and stripped them of their voting power.

"Our full memberships were taken from us by the court without even issuing a notice to us... Tell us what was our fault? We promote teams, we have been promoting cricket for years, we give players jobs and they rise. We were full time members," Mr. Rohatgi submitted.

He said he had "no love lost" for BCCI but was only bothered for his clients. The comment was countered by opposing lawyers, saying this late intervention by none other than the AG only revealed "a love affair" with the BCCI.

Mr. Rohatgi continued that the BCCI was a private body, and what the Lodha Committee had done was intervene in the "internal affairs of a private society".

"The BCCI remains a private society even though its functions resemble that of a national character. Where is your jurisdiction? Take the case of the Delhi District Cricket Association. It is a 'company' under Section 25 of the Companies Act. How can you decide the eligibility of the president, secretary and other office-bearers of a private company... these aspects have to be debated. We want a recall of the orders," Mr. Rohatgi submitted.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for several State cricket associations like Maharashtra who are members of the BCCI, interjected to get up then and say that it was "about time you (Mr. Rohatgi) made an appearance in this case".

"I am asking for a recall of your orders. Lodha Committee was appointed by this court to punish those found guilty in the IPL match-fixing. Then you told them to reform cricket... when has the court become a reformist body?" the Attorney General asked the Bench, which also comprised Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and D. Y. Chandrachud.

Mr. Sibal said the entire July 18 judgment of the Supreme Court and the January 2, 2017 order categorising disqualifications for cricket administrators should be "reopened".

Mr. Rohatgi questioned the logic behind disqualification of ministers and government servants from becoming office-bearers of the BCCI.

"Why can't the Railway minister not become an office-bearer?" Mr. Rohatgi asked.

"We are not shying away from the legal issues. They are interesting. We will have a debate," Justice Misra said.

The effort to wind the clock back on the litigation came even as amicus curiae and senior advocate Gopal Subramanium and senior advocate Anil Divan gave a list of nine 'suitable persons' who can be appointed into the Committee of Administrators to run the BCCI on a daily basis.

On January 2, the Supreme Court Bench led by the then Chief Justice of India T. S. Thakur had sought the committee to be formed to administer the BCCI for the time being after sacking both the BCCI president Anurag Thakur and the secretary Ajay Shirke.

Justice Misra indicated that the committee cannot hold nine persons and should be smaller. The court said it would consult the list and get back on January 24, the next date of the hearing.

When the court asked about the new CEO who is running the daily affairs now for the BCCI, Mr. Sibal said, "we cannot put everything on the CEO's shoulders". He submitted that the court should allow the member cricket associations to suggest names for the committee of administrators.

"On February 2 and 3, the ICC is going to meet. The BCCI contributes 70 percent of ICC revenue. There will be negotiations worth Rs. 8000 crore annually... Now who is going to negotiate for BCCI? Everybody who was experienced and who had background have been thrown out... Some people have been disqualified for 'cooling off periods', some have been thrown out for being 70 years old..." Mr. Sibal submitted.

Mr. Subramanium countered that the State associations were given ample opportunity to air their grievances before the July 18 judgment was pronounced and the subsequent January 2 order was passed.

The Supreme Court had already dismissed the review petitions and curative petitons of the BCCI in this matter. There is nothing left other than comply with the SC directions.

"My friend (pointing to Mr. Sibal) had previously, on three occasions, given this court his assurance that he would implement the orders of the Supreme Court. Why had he changed his version now?" Mr. Subramanium asked.

"I had only said I would try and persuade the members to accept the Lodha reforms. You (Mr. Subramanium) know the English language better than me," Mr. Sibal retorted.

Asking the senior lawyers to hold their peace, Justice Misra said the names for the Committee would be thoroughly discussed, and only then appointments be made.

"This committee is clearly ad hoc. Eventually an election has to be held in the BCCI," Justice Misra remarked.

"There is no reference to any election in the orders. Anyway, what election will that be when the members of the electoral college has been changed?" Mr. Sibal asked the court.

The committee of administrators, once appointed by an order of the Supreme Court, would manage the affairs of the BCCI. The Supreme Court-appointed Justice R. M. Lodha Committee would take on the wholistic task of guiding the policy of the cricket body. The administrators would be the pointsmen for ushering in the Lodha panel's recommendations of transparency and accountability in Indian cricket administration.

In its January 2 order, the court had endorsed the Justice Lodha panel recommendation to oust the BCCI office-bearers and administrators of affiliated State associations who are above 70 years old, who are insolvent, government ministers and servants, office-bearers of other sports and athletic associations, those who have already enjoyed a cumulative period of nine years at the BCCI helm and those charged with criminal offences.

Administrators who do not fall under any of these categories of disqualification were given a deadline of four weeks to fall in line with the Lodha reforms.