New Delhi: With the Board of Control for Cricket in India refusing to provide an undertaking that it will unconditionally implement all the approved recommendations of the Justice Lodha committee, the Supreme Court on Thursday said it will pass orders on Friday. At the end of the day-long hearing, a three-judge bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justices A.M. Kanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, initially granted time to senior counsel Kapil Sibal for giving the undertaking. But when Mr Sibal said he will respond on October 17 (when the court re-opens after Dasara vacation) as it will not be possible to get it in one day as there are 25 state associations, the CJI said the court will pass its orders on Friday.
Earlier, the CJI warned the BCCI that that there will be no domestic cricket matches if the board and its member-associations do not fall in line with the Lodha Committee reforms. The CJI said the BCCI will be asked to stop all payments to the state cricket associations for hosting domestic matches, including the Ranji Trophy. The state associations may also be asked to reimburse Rs 400 crore disbursed by the BCCI on September 30 in a Special General Meeting (SGM).
Mr Sibal and senior counsel Arvind Datar opposed any such intention to stop payment to the associations, saying domestic season was on and Ranji Trophy matches had started, with Tamil Nadu taking on Mumbai in Rohtak on Thursday. Mr Datar told the court, “Then there will be no domestic matches.” The CJI shot back, “If matches are to be conducted, they will be held in a transparent manner. Season or no season, we will not allow a penny to be wasted. Objectivity and transparency is more important than seasons.”
Mr Sibal said the Lodha Committee had initially given the BCCI a year’s time to complete the implementation of reforms and then suddenly turned around to shorten the deadline to September 30. Earlier, amicus curiae and senior advocate Gopal Subramanian informed the court that despite several emails sent to the BCCI office-bearers, neither the president, nor the secretary appeared before the Lodha panel and it was taking all steps not to implement the recommendations. The action of the BCCI was nothing but defiance and pleaded for supercession of the office-bearers. He also demanded initiation of civil as well as criminal contempt against them to ensure that the majesty of law prevailed.
The CJI asked amicus curiae as to what qualifications he want for appointment of administrators as an interim basis till the BCCI fell in line with the recommendations, Mr Subramaniam said any one with unimpeachable integrity could head the panel. When the CJI wanted to know what was the qualification of BCCI President Anurag Thakur, amicus curiae said he is a politician. Mr Sibal said Mr Thakur is a class one cricketer having played for Himachal Pradesh Ranji team. Another counsel intervened and said Mr Thakur had played only one match. The CJI said he had also played cricket for the Supreme Court in the match with the Supreme Court Bar Association.
The CJI indicated that either the court could appoint them or the BCCI elects new administrators, or the Lodha panel gives the board more time to “fall in line”. Taking note of the complaint of amicus curiae, the CJI faulted the BCCI for transferring Rs 400 crore overnight to its state associations, which went against the Lodha panel’s recommendations. Justice Thakur said that the BCCI should have exercised transparency when funding state associations, adding that an amount as large as Rs 400 crore cannot be disbursed overnight.
Mr Sibal and Mr Datar told the court that the matter dates back to the 2015-2016 season when broadcasters Star Sports and Sony had given the board compensation for the cancellation of a tournament, and that money was to be given to the state associations. They said a part payment had already been made and what was transferred was only the balance amount. When the CJI suggested that the associations should be asked not to utilise the funds received from the board, counsel said it was not possible to do so as the matches cannot be conducted for this season up to April next. The CJI told the counsel, “See if you had sought time (to implement reforms) it was fine. We are not on the question of time frame but this defiant attitude… cricket season or no season more important is transparency in the dealings.. We will still leave it open. But BCCI should unconditionally agree to comply with the recommendations and also not disburse money to association who are not willing to reform..We cannot continue wasting our time on BCCI... We have other things to do... We have people languishing in jails. Their cases are more important for us.”
Mr Sibal said that majority of the state associations have not accepted the recommendations, and the BCCI had no powers to force compliance from its member-state associations as they had a mind of their own. The CJI said. “People want money from you but at the same time they are not ready to reform. Why do you pay money to those who do not listen to you? Nobody can say I want money but I will not reform. you tell them if you want money you reform. Stop payment to all associations who are not ready to reform. To those to whom money has been disbursed, let them refund. Did not the Lodha panel warn you against such unauthorised disbursement?”...