Observing that it is inclined to launch prosecution against BCCI president Anurag Thakur for committing perjury, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that he will go to jail if held guilty of lying under oath in his attempts to obstruct reforms in the cricket body. A bench led by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur stated that Anurag was prima facie culpable under charges of contempt of court and perjury as he apparently lied about seeking a letter from the International Cricket Council to assert that one of the Lodha panel recommendations on cricket reforms amounted to governmental interference.
The court reserved its order on a verdict whether Anurag should be prosecuted for perjury, and also said it would pronounce upon as to a panel of administrators should replace Anurag and other office-bearers to allow implementation of the Lodha panel reforms.
On being asked by the court, Anurag had in October filed an affidavit saying he had sought a letter of “clarification” from ICC president Shashank Manohar in August regarding a position taken by Manohar as the BCCI chief that having a nominee of the Comptroller and Auditor General in the working committee will tantamount to governmental interference.
But Anurag denied having made a request to the ICC to write to the BCCI that Lodha panel’s intervention was like governmental interference. However, Manohar, in his response to the court’s query, said that Anurag had indeed sought a letter from him but he refused to issue it, saying the Supreme Court has already ruled upon this aspect by a judgment a month ago.
Juxtaposing Anurag’s affidavit and Manohar’s response, the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said that Anurag was prima facie in contempt and had also committed perjury. “We are inclined to launch prosecution against your client (Anurag)…once we pronounce on this, your client will have nowhere to go but to jail. And if we say you are guilty of perjury, do you think any other court will grant you any relief?,” the bench told senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, who appeared for the BCCI.
The court called it “very unfortunate” and “frustrating” that Anurag was apparently trying to obstruct reforms and was creating hurdles at each step. “This court heard you and all the state associations. We gave you time and said it repeatedly that do not make things unpleasant. Three former judges of this court (Lodha panel) make well-meaning recommendations in the interest of the game but you are trying to obstruct them at every stage,” said the bench.
It remarked that Anurag would have to apologise if he wanted to escape the charges, to which Sibal readily agreed.
However, the court then said that it would examine his conduct and pass appropriate orders — most likely in the first week of January.
The bench took strong exception to the fact that Anurag had sought such a letter in August while the judgment on having a CAG nominee had already come in July. “Where was the occasion for you to seek a letter? Do you think we don’t understand what you were trying to do? You wanted a letter so that you could come back to us saying ICC has threatened the BCCI with de-recognition if you comply with our orders. But let us tell you, these things will not work anymore,” it said.
The court rued that holding a position in the BCCI had become “such a lucrative business” that people wanted to continue as office-bearers for life and did not want to give up on it under any condition. Sibal, on his part, tried to justify Anurag’s affidavit, saying it was filed after the impugned paragraph was sent to Manohar and that he agreed with the averment.
He also said that there was no attempt to obstruct implementation of the court orders and that Anurag was ready to furnish an unconditional apology. Sibal and senior lawyer Arvind Datar also raised a point of law, saying Anurag had not been issued a notice of perjury in his personal capacity. The bench, however, retorted that it has already heard Sibal on this aspect. It also maintained that Anurag should not remain at the helm of affairs if he is charged under perjury.
SC dismisses curative petition
The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the curative petition filed by the BCCI seeking reconsideration of its verdict on implementation of reforms proposed by the Lodha panel. With dismissal of the curative petition, the BCCI is left with no legal remedy to seek modification or revision of the apex court’s July 18 judgment.
“We have gone through the Curative Petition and the relevant documents. In our opinion, no case is made out within the parameters indicated in the decision of this Court in Rupa Ashok Hurra Vs Ashok Hurra & Another. Hence, the Curative Petition is dismissed,” stated the order. The bench comprised Chief Justice of India T S Thakur, Justices J S Khehar and Dipak Misra – three senior most judges of the top court.