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Underlining that reforms have been “impeded by the intransigence of the BCCI and its office-bearers”, the Supreme Court Friday put shackles on the cricket board’s financial powers, holding that it cannot award contracts and issue tenders without approval of the Lodha Committee.
The court also initiated an inquiry into whether BCCI president Anurag Thakur had sought a letter from ICC chairperson Shashank Manohar to state that an intervention by the Lodha panel and the appointment of a nominee of the Comptroller and Auditor General in the board would amount to “governmental interference”.
The bench, led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur, said that a copy of this order shall be sent to the ICC chairperson “in order to enable him to consider filing a response setting out his version, to set the record straight and assist this court”.
Manohar, the court said, is at liberty to obtain a report from the world body’s chief executive Dave Richardson, who had in an interview claimed that Thakur asked the ICC chairperson to issue a letter saying Lodha panel’s recommendation was “governmental interference”.
An affidavit by BCCI general secretary Ratnakar Shetty in the court had accused Richardson of “falsely” making this claim but Thakur’s affidavit later stated that he had sought a clarification from Manohar on this point while seeking a letter on the final opinion of the ICC chairperson.
“Prima facie, an effort has been made by the president of BCCI to create a record in order to question the legitimacy of the recommendation of the committee for the appointment of a CAG nominee after the recommendation was accepted by this court on July 18, 2016,” said the court.
The bench added it was “a matter of serious concern” that Thakur, after the final judgment, requested the ICC chairperson for a letter “clarifying” the position.
About the financial constraints, the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said that the committee will also appoint an independent auditor to scrutinise the board’s book of accounts and will oversee all financial bids “that will hereinafter be undertaken by the BCCI”.
The bench added that the Lodha panel shall fix a monetary ceiling on contracts and the BCCI will compulsorily require a nod from the panel for award of contracts above the threshold fixed.
In what may also affect media rights, ground rights, etc., of tournaments including IPL, the apex court held that the final decision regarding a high-value contract will rest with the panel that “will determine whether a proposed contract above the threshold value should or should not be approved”.
“The committee shall be at liberty to obtain the advice of the auditors on the fairness of the tendering process which has been adopted by BCCI and in regard to all relevant facts and circumstances,” stated the bench.
The court said it was “inclined to take a serious view of the conduct of BCCI in the present case” since prima facie, there was a substance in the status report submitted by the committee, which asserted that the BCCI was not willing to implement the reforms and scuttled the measures at every stage.
“There has been no change in the position of BCCI. The intransigence continues,” said the court, as it also restrained the BCCI from disbursing funds to state associations until they adopt a resolution undertaking to implement the recommendations of the committee as accepted by the court in its judgment of July 18, 2016.
The bench directed BCCI president Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke “to file within two weeks a statement on affidavit indicating compliance made by BCCI of those of the recommendations of the committee which have been complied with, the manner of compliance and the steps adopted for securing compliance with the remaining recommendations”.
Taking note of the fact that the duo had failed to appear before the Lodha panel despite notices, the top court said that Thakur and Shirke shall appear before the committee to explain the manner of compliance.
“An affidavit of compliance shall be filed before this court on or before December 3, 2016 by the president and
secretary to BCCI,” added the bench, fixing December 5 as next date of hearing.
The court made it clear that it was desisting from replacing the top brass with a set of administrators as proposed by the committee since the BCCI “so as to enable BCCI to demonstrate its good faith and the steps taken for compliance both before the committee in the first instance and before this court by the next date of hearing”.