Making it clear that the cricketing body’s rules were “neither sacrosanct nor beyond the reach of the court”, the Supreme Court on Thursday told the BCCI that it would prevent all attempts to “filibuster” or “prolong” the much-needed reforms in administration of cricket in India.
A bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice FMI Kalifulla also took a swipe at the BCCI when it asserted the Indian cricket team was the top team in T20 and Test cricket. “Is this because of the BCCI or despite BCCI?” remarked the bench, adding that the cricketing body performed public function, hence it has to be held accountable for its activities.
As a clutch of counsel representing the BCCI and various state cricket associations complained that their views were not solicited by the Lodha panel before making recommendations on the issue of ‘one state-one association-one vote’, the court pulled them up, questioning why they were sitting on the fence when the entire world was aware that the apex court had set up a committee for overhaul of cricket in India.
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“Why were you waiting? It was widely known that we have formed Lodha Committee to suggest reforms in cricket. The whole world knew it. It was an international story but you did not go to the Committee. You should have gone there. You now come to us saying you were not heard. What were you doing then?” it questioned.
The lawyers for the BCCI and state cricket associations were unison they would want to go back to Lodha Committee again and present various facts about the issues such as voting rights, curb on advertisements and composition of managing committee to prompt review of the recommendation.
But the bench responded: “There is no question of you wanting it. We, the Supreme Court, will decide whether we are inclined to send it back. This may be the easiest way to filibuster or prolong the reforms. Further, the Committee cost a lot of money to the BCCI. It is a very expensive Committee.”
It said that the bench would first examine if the issues raised against some of the recommendations of the Lodha panel can be addressed by the court itself. “If we cannot do this on our own, we will then refer it to the Committee on very limited points, that too after fixing a deadline to submit the supplementary report,” said the bench.
Fixing the next hearing for March 18, the court allowed all the state associations as well some former players including Bishan Singh Bedi and Kirti Azad to submit their views on Lodha panel’s recommendations.
Funding to state units
It also directed the BCCI to submit details of funds it allocated to state associations in the last five years after observing that there seemed to be no audit and that transfer of this money without any drawn up plan on how to spend it may influence the voting pattern.
“You have transferred Rs 480 crore to these associations in one year. There has to be some credible monitoring mechanism on how this money is used… what development has taken place as far as cricketing infrastructure is concerned. Also tell us how much fund have you given to states like Manipur or Nagaland. What has been the allocation pattern? We would like to know if some states have been neglected,” it asked the BCCI.
The court also took umbrage at the BCCI’s objections to the Lodha panel recommendation on prohibiting ministers and bureaucrats from the managing committee. The BCCI argued that people like former minister NKP Salve lent leadership and experience in cricket administration.
“So just because NKP 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?” it said.
The bench pointed out that the BCCI had issues even with a CAG nominee being a part of the committee as their conscience keeper. “You say ICC may disenfranchise you. What for? Will they disenfranchise you because you have a person in your committee on the orders of the Supreme Court to check on irregularities?”
Appearing for the BCCI, senior advocate KK Venugopal further said the Lodha panel recommendation to have one full-time member in one state with one vote could lead to corruption like the one seen in FIFA. To this, the bench asked how many such incidents FIFA had experienced before and that this was first such scandal in 50 or 100 years.
The BCCI also complained about a recommendation to reduce advertisements during matches, contending it would cripple its finances and plans to promote cricket teams for women and under-18 shall be hit hard.
The bench retorted: “Are you considering a viewer’s right to enjoy the game in low priority than your right to earn revenue? The prominent spirit should be viewers’ enjoyment. Do you think Indian team has reached this position because of commercial aspect?”