In a major relief for veteran cricket administrators in the BCCI and the State cricket bodies facing the axe, the Supreme Court, on Friday, confirmed that those of them who have served as office-bearers in the State cricket associations for nine years will not be disqualified from contesting or holding posts in the BCCI and vice versa.
A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra, A. M. Khanwilkar and D. Y. Chandrachud said it has to be made “as clear as the cloudless sky” that an office-bearer who has served for nine years in any capacity in the BCCI shall be further disqualified from being an office-bearer in the Board.
Similarly, a BCCI office-bearer who served in any capacity in a State cricket association for nine years would be disqualified from further resuming office or contesting for a position in the association.
“To avoid any kind of mess, we are giving an example. If a person has held a position of an office-bearer in a State association for a period of nine years, he will not be disqualified from contesting or holding a post of the BCCI,” Justice Misra dictated in the order.
The clarification came after Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Universities, Armed Services and Railways, said that former Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai-led Committee of Administrators (CoA) appointed by the Supreme Court has misinterpreted the past orders of the Supreme Court.
In its January 2, 2017 order, the Supreme Court had endorsed the Justice Lodha panel recommendation to oust the BCCI office-bearers and administrators of affiliated State associations who have already enjoyed a cumulative period of nine years, among other criteria for disqualification.
The wordings of this order had led to some confusion on whether an office-bearer who served a cumulative period of nine years — for example, five years in the BCCI and four years at the State level — would be disqualified.
Subsequently, on January 20, the Supreme Court clarified that it had allowed administrators to serve separate nine-year terms at the BCCI and the State level, thus permitting a total 18 years in cricket administration.
The court further directed the CoA-run BCCI to honour the contract it entered into with the Himachal Pradesh State Cricket Association (HPSCA) for conducting the fourth Test cricket match between India and Australia on March 25, 2017.
Seeking urgent reprieve from the court, the HPSCA submitted that the CoA has withheld a Rs. 2.5 crore payment due to it for the use of its cricket stadium in Dharamsala for the fourth Test match.
"The CoA is saying they will not pay it unless I amend my constitution. This is a contract signed by the CoA. This is my money due to me on the basis of a distinct, individual contract. They have to honour the contract,” Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for HPSCA submitted.
CoA counsel and senior advocate Parag Tripathi said the HPSCA is cash-rich and was “sitting on Rs. 90 crore”.
To this, Mr. Mehta said HPSCA was not asking the CoA-run BCCI for a largesse. “Just because I am financially affluent does not give you an excuse to not honour a contract you entered with me. I may be sitting on Rs. 1000 crore, but you have a distinct and separate obligation to honour your contract with me,” Mr. Mehta told the CoA counsel.
Mr. Tripathi said the HPSCA was run by a “gentleman who was accused of perjury by this honourable court”. But Justice Misra cut him short, saying that the former BCCI president Anurag Thakur, the gentleman in question, had already offered an unconditional apology.
“The association (HPSCA) should not suffer because of a man,” Justice Misra reacted.
“You have entered into a contract and promised to pay. You have to pay. You cannot say 'hold the match in March and I will pay you in September after I hold my AGM',” Justice Khanwilkar told the CoA.
The court ordered the BCCI to honour the terms and conditions of all individual contracts it has entered into in letter and spirit, including the tripartite contracts for the IPL games due on April 5, 2017.
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