The Supreme Court on Tuesday put the BCCI in the dock over its fund distribution to affiliate members, observing that the board seemed to have “done nothing to promote cricket uniformly in all the states” and has instead created a “mutually beneficial society”.
A bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice FMI Kalifulla took strong exception to negligible funds allocated to various states by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and questioned whether it was being done with a design to receive some benefits in elections. “Out of 29 states, 11 member associations have not got a single penny. It is not a good sign. It is your argument that these states do not play cricket, but how will you develop the game if you don’t give them any money? You have done nothing to promote it (cricket) there… and that is the misfortune,” remarked the bench after it went through a chart adduced by the BCCI on fund allocations.
The court added “there are big zeroes” and pointed out states like Gujarat and Goa have received 50-60 crores whereas some states have been given a meagre 50 lakh for the entire year. “A state like Goa which has a population of 10 lakh gets Rs 60 crore but Chhattisgarh gets only Rs 1.4 crore. Can you explain why? It looks like the only policy you have is of ‘you show me the face and I will show you the rules’. The system must change,” said the bench.
Representing the BCCI, senior advocate KK Venugopal sought to convince the court by arguing that states having international stadium get additional money for its maintenance and that a non-discriminatory policy has been adopted by the board.
But the bench remained unimpressed as it further questioned the mechanism for auditing the accounts of the member associations. “Have you asked these associations and states how they have spent the money? You have left it to them to spend it as they wish. You allot money without demanding explanation which is practically corrupting them,” it asserted.
Venugopal responded that the BCCI has now sought the professional services of PricewaterhouseCoopers to audit the accounts of various associations.
However, the court asked Venugopal whether auditing was being avoided deliberately so that these members “raise their hands whenever you want them to.” The bench added that it is “testing the waters to decide” the matter while also seeking answers as to how an affiliate member becomes a full member after Venugopal contended that full members get more money at their disposal.
The top court was hearing the BCCI’s objections to the string of recommendations made by the Lodha panel in the wake of the 2013 IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal. On being asked, Venugopal had said their first objection pertained to a recommendation providing for one state-one association-one vote.
According to the BCCI, various states had more than one associations for valid reasons and added that it may not be a well-thought idea to hand over voting rights to states which do not play cricket. The prime objection related to the seven north-eastern states, which would get seven votes in case Lodha panel’s recommendation gets the seal of approval from the apex court although cricket is not a popular game in these states.
The bench had allowed the BCCI as well as the associations to present their arguments but it reminded them on Tuesday that it was inclined to implement the recommendations of the panel headed by former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha.
“Please don’t say Lodha Committee recommendations cannot be implemented. Remember that it is not an ordinary committee. We have reposed utmost faith in this committee and the committee has spent almost one year on coming out with these recommendations. We will be inclined to implement all its recommendations,” observed the court.
Appearing for the Punjab Cricket Association, senior lawyer Ashok H Desai questioned the mandate of the Lodha panel to prescribe measures for voting and state associations. The court retorted: “Nobody is doing anything to the associations. The committee has only said there should be one association to manage cricket. It is now for the state authorities to organise themselves.” The court will hear the arguments next on April 15.