Anurag Thakur, the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, found himself in a tricky situation as the Supreme Court of India asked him on Friday (October 7) to furnish a personal affidavit on his purported request to the International Cricket Council (ICC) to term the Justice Lodha committee-recommended reforms as amounting to government interference in cricket management.
The board president will have to tread carefully in filing the personal affidavit as misstating facts or making an incorrect statement could lead to initiation of contempt of court proceedings against him if the court finds him guilty of filing a false affidavit. A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said, “Anurag Thakur, president of BCCI, shall file a personal affidavit whether he had asked the CEO of the ICC to state that the appointment of Justice Lodha committee was tantamount to government interference in the working of the BCCI.”
All through the hearing in the apex court for implementation of reforms suggested by the Justice Lodha panel, the BCCI had taken a strident stand and argued that including a nominee of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in the managing committee of the board could be viewed as government interference in the board’s affairs and lead to its suspension by the ICC.
It had also argued against exclusion of ministers and bureaucrats from the management committee on the ground that it would deprive the BCCI of their expertise in management.
The Supreme Court had rejected these arguments and said, “A CAG nominee would only ensure that finances are streamlined. If CAG nominee is government interference in board affairs, how can the BCCI argue for inclusion of ministers and bureaucrats in its managing committee?” In asking the board president to file a personal affidavit, the apex court was referring to a statement from ICC CEO David Richardson, who had reportedly claimed that Thakur had verbally requested ICC boss Shashank Manohar to write a letter to the BCCI related to the particular Lodha proposal.
Richardson had said in a TV interview, “The president of the BCCI, Thakur, did verbally request the ICC chairman to write a letter to the BCCI, asking the BCCI to explain whether the recommendations of Lodha committee might constitute government interference.
“Manohar said the ICC should not write such a letter unless the BCCI first writes to the ICC, requesting the ICC to intervene, or that the ICC receives a letter from another of its member requesting it to do so; and no such letter has been received. I understand Manohar is reluctant to interfere in domestic affairs of a member country.”
He had further said, “He will not do so without being formally requested to do so by that member concerned, nor is he prepared to put the ICC in a position where the ICC can be perceived as challenging the authority of the Supreme Court of India, without being formally requested to intervene and especially without the full consensus of the ICC board.”
Gopal Subramaniam, the amicus curiae, had appraised the Supreme Court during the hearing that BCCI had denied Thakur seeking ICC’s intervention. “It is being incorrectly alleged that the President of the BCCI made a request to the ICC to issue a letter stating that this Committee amounts to Governmental interference. This suggestion is denied,” a BCCI affidavit ratified by administrative manager Ratnakar Shetty, submitted as a response to the Lodha panel status report, had said.
According to BCCI, Manohar, the then board president, had expressed his reservations against the inclusion of a CAG officer in the apex council and that his stance had since changed since his elevation as ICC chairman.
“This issue is required to be considered in the light of the fact that Mr. Shashank Manohar Senior Advocate had clearly opined as the BCCI President that appointment of the CAG in the BCCI shall result in suspension of the BCCI as it would constitute governmental interference. In fact the same had been submitted on affidavit before this Honourable Court.
“However, as Chairman of the ICC, Mr. Manohar had taken a contrary stand and clarification was sought by Mr. Anurag Thakur during an informal discussion on what the exact status would be if the CAG was inducted by the BCCI as part its management and whether it would amount to governmental interference as had been advised and affirmed by Mr. Manohar during his stint as BCCI President,” the affidavit said.
Curious about Shetty’s being privy to a supposed conversation between Thakur and the ICC, the Supreme Court also asked the administrative manager to furnish a separate undertaking as to how he was allowed to sign the affidavit in response to the status report.