The Delhi and District Cricket Association’s (DDCA) ombudsman Justice (retired) Deepak Verma has asked for the appointment of an administrator to run the conflict-ridden state unit, citing financial irregularities and wilful contempt of orders passed by him and the court.
In his letter to the Delhi High Court, the ombudsman said the administrator, once appointed, would supersede the DDCA’s Apex Council. Members of the council and the ombudsman have been at loggerheads over the suspension of four officials and the status of the state cricket unit’s standing counsel.
“It is for everyone’s information that owing to the current mess and the situation created in DDCA including but not limited to financial irregularities and wilful contempt of Orders passed by Ombudsman and High Court, I have made a reference to the Hon’ble Delhi High Court to intervene in the affairs of DDCA. I have further requested the High Court that present Apex Council be superseded and an Administrator be appointed (whosoever the High Court deems fit),” he wrote.
The state body has been in the news for the wrong reasons after it came to light last week that its general secretary Vinod Tihara has been jailed since mid-March. Tihara was arrested by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence for allegedly violating GST norms and was lodged in a Meerut jail. The constant squabbling between members has resulted in DDCA’s legal bills running into crores of rupees, while coaches and other support staff remain unpaid for the previous cricket season. The move by the ombudsman to request the high court to put an administrator in charge comes after weeks of differences between Justice Verma and apex council members, who have accused him of passing ‘one-sided orders’ and ‘failing to recognise resolutions passed by a majority’.
In March, Justice Verma had ordered a forensic audit of the DDCA for the past five years after a tender worth Rs 6.5 crore was awarded to a contractor for modernisation of the bar, restaurant, member’s lounge, and cricket library. He took the decision when he received no response from Apex Council members after he asked them to submit all documents related to MSL Jangid JV, the contractor. A director and member of the infrastructure committee visited the given address of the contractor in Noida and claimed that no such company existed at the site. He also informed the ombudsman of the same. “I would like to point out that since the complaints were primarily made against the agreement (between DDCA and MSL Jangid JV), it would be proper to conduct the forensic audit in relation to the said agreement first, followed by detailed and comprehensive audit of the entire DDCA,” the ombudsman said in an order dated March 20.
Justice Verma also stated that a copy of his letter to the Delhi High Court, asking for an administrator to be appointed, was submitted to standing counsel Gautam Dutta so that he could present the hard copy to the high court. The court has listed May 1 as the date to consider the ombudsman request.
Dutta said: “The Hon’ble Ombudsman has issued a reference to Hon’ble Chief Justice, Delhi High Court to dissolve the Apex Council and appoint an Administrator at DDCA, given the situation at DDCA. It was listed today before HC. The judge recused. Now to be listed on 1 May before the parent bench which had passed the status quo orders on 13.03.2020.”
The continuation of Dutta as the standing counsel has been a bone of contention as the Apex Council had removed him from his post earlier this month and claimed it to be a majority decision.
However, on April 15, the ombudsman debarred four members of the Apex Council – Apurv Jain, Nithin Gupta, Alok Mittal, and joint secretary Rajan Manchanda – from administrative and financial work or taking any decisions related to DDCA. The ombudsman also stated that “Mr Gautam Dutta shall continue to perform his functions as DDCA standing counsel at least till the time the complaints pending before me attain finality.” Verma added that the “resolution to remove the standing counsel was unlawful as the persons who have presented and approved the resolution are facing a disciplinary inquiry before me”.
Manchanda said that he would knock on the door of the court to stop the appointment of an administrator. “The ombudsman has been interfering in the day-to-day affairs of the Apex Council and the DDCA, which is not acceptable. We will challenge his decision to ask for an administrator. At the same time, we are ready to co-operate with any inquiry the ombudsman wants to conduct but if he wants us to submit any papers, then I request him to wait till the lockdown ends as all relevant documents are at the DDCA office,” Manchanda said.
If HCA appoints an administrator, it won’t be the first time the DDCA is headed by a former judge. In 2016, Justice Mukul Mudgal was appointed as an observer and a year later Justice Vikramajit Sen took over as administrator.