BCCI on Thursday faced the Supreme Court’s wrath for its “defiant attitude” in implementing the directions of the Justice R M Lodha committee to reform cricket in the country and “hurriedly” disbursing around Rs 400 crore to state bodies.
The apex court decided to pass an order on the issue of implementation of directions of the committee headed by former CJI Lodha on Friday after the counsel for Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) declined to give an “unconditional undertaking by tomorrow” that it will seek instructions to stop funds to the state bodies and abide by the panel’s recommendations.
“You must not create a defiant attitude. This is not going to lead you anywhere,” a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said, emphasising that transparency, fairness and objectivity were most important aspects in all decisions including disbursal of funds by BCCI.
The bench was pained at BCCI’s stance that the verdicts and directions of the apex court and the Lodha panel were contrary to statutory provisions, saying its reluctance to accept them was part of a “strategy” or “design”, after senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, assisting as an amicus curiae, drew attention to the BCCI’s affidavit.
He also referred to constitutional provisions dealing with Supreme Court judges and criticised the board for roping in Justice (Retd) Markandey Katju who made “inappropriate remarks” against the judgement of the apex court and the deliberations of the Justice Lodha committee, to undermine the dignity of the apex court.
“Once you become judge of the Supreme Court, you become part of the institution to which there is dignity attached,” he said, asking “can a former judge, once a colleague, can speak about the judgements”, talk to media or hold press conferences.
Though the BCCI received the comments of Justice Katju in writing, it later distanced itself from him but used his views as an averment in the affidavit, Subramaniam said, adding that the apex cricket body was liable for both civil and criminal contempt for disobeying the binding judgement.
“Can a body find out ways and means to subvert the judgement. The answer is ‘No’. It is a civil as well as criminal contempt. A binding judgement of this court cannot be disobeyed and subverted in such a manner till the time it is either modified or reviewed,” he said while stressing that all decisions of BCCI, post apex court judgement, be declared “non est (null and void).”
The senior advocate said the apex court should pass an order that BCCI office bearers should be “superseded” by court-appointed administrators of “impeccable integrity”.
Taking note of Subramaniam’s submissions, the bench pondered over who could be the people who would supersede the office-bearers and even suggested that it could ask Lodha panel to give another opportunity to BCCI to “fall in line”.
“There are two options. Either we say that you follow the recommendations or we will ask the committee to give them one more chance to comply with it and fall in line. They know better what type of people can be administrators,” it said.
Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB), through its secretary Aditya Verma, submitted that the committee should be empowered to appoint administrators for BCCI.
The bench, which will pronounce the order tomorrow, said the BCCI cannot pass the buck and allow state bodies to defy reforms, adding there should be “immediate stoppage of flow of funds to them” as these were “public money” and there must be complete transparency on “how the money is being spent”.
“First you (BCCI) ought to adopt your own memorandum of association (MoA). Are you adopting it? There are rules and regulations. What is your instruction,” the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, asked and added, “You, as a body, make your stand clear”.
“Once you are at the forefront of defiance, you are giving them (state associations) the lead for defiance,” the bench further said and warned BCCI that it will not disburse grant to state bodies which were reluctant to follow the directions of the committee, which was not an ordinary panel but comprised of three former judges of the top court.
When senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for BCCI, expressed difficulty in following the directions of the Lodha committee asking the cricket body to comply by September 30, the bench said, “your President (Anurag Thakur) should have taken the trouble to explain to the Lodha committee about the difficulties and should have sought extension of time.”
It said BCCI has to cooperate with the committee in implementing the directions, as so much time has been devoted by the apex court and the Lodha panel which also had former apex court judges Ashok Bhan and R V Raveendran as members.
The bench asked “why should we waste time on reforms in the BCCI? People are waiting to come out of jails. Resisting directions of committee of former Supreme Court judges will not help in any way.”
“If state associations are reluctant to reform, then why give them the grant,” it said, adding “it is not a small amount. You are giving Rs 25 crore to each of them. Why you are in a hurry to disburse the money.”
The bench expressed displeasure that around Rs 400 crore were disbursed on September 29, two days ahead of the extraordinary general body meeting on October one.
Sibal, at the outset, said the BCCI was obeying the recommendations of the Lodha panel and argued that the state bodies were not under the apex cricket body and they need to be persuaded to undergo the reforms.
“According to you, there are state associations which are not agreeing to the recommendations. If you want matches to be played, you must ensure that the directions are complied with,” the bench said.
“You (BCCI) do not need to persuade them. You are giving them money. Do not give them money if they are not complying,” it said.
The bench refused to wait till October 18 for the BCCI to make its stand clear on various contentious issues, including disbursal of funds to state associations and compliance of suggested reforms by them.
The apex court was also not impressed with the arguments that BCCI had no control over the state associations to compel them to adopt the MoA and it was for the bench to pass a judicial order in this regard.
“You (BCCI) cannot say they are asking money from me but they are saying they will not be under me. If that is the case, do not give them money. You can carry out your fundamental rights of running the association but the state bodies have no fundamental rights to demand money. They cannot say I will not follow your directions but grant me money,” the bench said.
“To all these associations, you are giving money not in a small amount, but in crores of rupees. You have paid them hundreds of crores. Stop the grant. There should be immediate stoppage of payment to all associations which are not ready for reform and for those which have already received the grant, there should be a remittance of money,” it said.
At the outset, Subramaniam said the BCCI, in its affidavit, was saying it had the highest respect for the Supreme Court, but this was not manifested in the deeds.
The bench also said “respect has to be not only in words but also in deeds.”The senior advocate also claimed that the BCCI affidavit did not mention the disbursement of money which had actually taken place with an aim to obtain vote of the state associations which have rejected the recommendations of the Lodha committee.