Accused of playing “fast and loose” with the Supreme Court, events turned personally ugly for the BCCI president Anurag Thakur when the Supreme Court, on Thursday, said it finds him prima facie guilty of contempt of court and liable to face criminal prosecution for perjury.
At one point, a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India T. S. Thakur threatened that once the Supreme Court passes an order to initiate prosecution, no other court would dare to come in between and the BCCI president would have “no way out, but go to jail”.
“We find him (Anurag Thakur) prima facie guilty of contempt. We are inclined to launch prosecution for perjury. That would make him a suspect. Can such a person be allowed to head the Board (BCCI)?” Chief Justice Thakur asked the BCCI counsel and senior advocate Kapil Sibal.
The court said the “crux” of the matter was that the Lodha Committee set up by the Supreme Court “thinks he should step down as he is obstructing reforms”.
Despite Mr. Sibal's protests that the BCCI president did not intend to cross the court, the Bench, also comprising Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and D. Y. Chandrachud, said it would pass orders against Mr. Thakur. At this, Mr. Sibal protested that the court should first issue notice to the BCCI president and give him a chance to respond.
The senior lawyer said he represented the BCCI and not Mr. Thakur. To this, the Bench said it was willing to receive any additional papers Mr. Thakur wanted to file in his defence.
The court turned its ire at full blast on Mr. Thakur after the clouds finally cleared on whether or not the BCCI president and BJP MP had, in August 2016, during a meeting in Dubai, approached ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar for a letter seeking to undermine the Supreme Court decision on July 18 for the appointment of a nominee of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the BCCI Apex Council.
In the hearing, amicus curiae and senior advocate Gopal Subramanium read out a letter by Mr. Manohar making a clean breast of what transpired between him and Mr. Thakur in Dubai. Mr. Manohar said that the BCCI president did ask him to issue a letter in his capacity as ICC Chairman, and he had refused.
“Mr. Manohar is very clear in his letter. He said you did ask him for a letter on the appointment of a CAG nominee amounting to governmental interference. There was no occasion for you to approach the ICC when this court had already said this was a measure for transparency,” Chief Justice Thakur addressed Mr. Sibal.
The BCCI president's attempts to approach the ICC for a letter had first come to light in an interview given by ICC CEO David Richardson to a media outlet. It was eventually brought to the attention of the Supreme Court by the amicus curiae.
Over the past months, the Supreme Court had wanted to know why the BCCI president had approached the ICC despite its July 18 judgment clearly explaining that the Justice Lodha Committee's suggestion to appoint a CAG nominee in BCCI was only to usher in transparency and not intended as a “governmental interference” in the Board's functioning. The ICC rules mandate no governmental interference in members' functioning.
The court suspected that Mr. Thakur wanted to use the letter from ICC, had he got it, to “set up an argument to not implement the July 18 judgment” upholding the sweeping reforms recommended by the Lodha Committee.
The BCCI had initially, through its General Manager (Administration and Game) Ratnakar Shivaram Shetty, dismissed Mr. Richardson's allegation as a “figment of his imagination”. However, Mr. Thakur, when pressed to file a personal affidavit by the Supreme Court, made an “ambivalent” admission that he did ask Mr. Manohar to “clarify” his position on the CAG nominee as a past BCCI president.
Dissatisfied with these responses, the Bench had finally decided to know the truth from Mr. Manohar himself.