Justice RM Lodha has defended his right to checkmate the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) from disbursing cash to state associations but said he had not stopped funds for routine matters. And if that was the impression the BCCI got from his communication, he feels it was 'grossly unfortunate'.
"My mails to the BCCI and the banks are very clear, there is no scope for misinterpretation. If that (misinterpretation) has happened, this is sad," Lodha said in an exclusive interview with Firstpost this morning, adding "The Committee is perfectly within its rights to take a call on some of the expenses planned by the board because we have been mandated by the Supreme Court."
“But the game must go on, the show must go on. But if someone starts misreading my mails, it would be very sad,” he added.
In what appeared to be a case of arm-twisting the committee, top sources in the BCCI were quoted in a section of the media saying their accounts were frozen and that they would have no other option but to cancel the ongoing series against the visiting New Zealand side. Some media reports even said that the New Zealand tour was on the verge of being cancelled by the BCCI due to financial problems.
The BCCI, the world’s richest cricket board, had taken the decision to grant more funds to its state bodies during its emergent working committee meeting held on 30 September.
A daily newspaper even quoted quoted an unnamed official from the BCCI as saying, "We have no option other than to call off the India-New Zealand series as our banks have decided to freeze BCCI accounts... We don't want India to be humiliated in front of the world. How can we function, how can we hold any games now? Who will make the payment? Freezing a bank account is no joke. An international team is here, and there is so much at stake.”
New Zealand are preparing for the third Test, starting in Indore on Saturday. India sealed the three-match Test series 2-0 on Monday with a 178-run victory in Kolkata. The Test series will be followed by a five-match One-Day International series.
Lodha said he was pained to read those reports. “They should read my mail, it has everything in it.”
“The BCCI, on its own, has chosen to defy virtually all our recommendations. The Committee responded to the BCCI decision, and now the Supreme Court will hear the case on 6 October.”
“How many times do I have to clarify to clear such miscommunications? Have we stopped them from conducting a series which is a routine affair? Did we ask the banks to freeze BCCI’s accounts? We have not ordered them to stop distributing funds on routine matters,” said Lodha.
He then read out portions of the mail sent by Gopal Sankaranarayanan, which stated the following:
"It has come to the notice of this committee that certain decisions have been taken at the ‘Emergent Working Committee’ meeting of the BCCI on 30 September, 2016 to disburse large funds to the various member associations... you are hereby directed not to take any steps towards financial disbursement of the amounts as resolved/approved after the direction dated 31 August, 2016. Any violation of this direction will be placed before the Honourable Supreme Court for appropriate directions."
"So where is my direction to freeze the BCCI accounts?" he asked.
But the standoff between the BCCI and the Lodha Committee — a panel appointed by the Supreme Court to oversee reforms ordered on 18 July — is virtually going down to the wire.
The Committee’s order to BCCI not to release any funds in relation to last week’s sudden decision (to disburse the surplus through Champions League Twenty20 settlement among state associations till the Supreme Court hearing on 6 October) did not sit well with the board's top brass, who had virtually defied the Supreme Court order by not adopting the new rulebook.
My mails to the BCCI and the banks are very clear, there is no scope for misinterpretation
The root of the huge windfall was the settlement of Rs 1,603.11 crore that was added to the BCCI coffers as the settlement fees after Star India was allowed to scrap the CLT20 broadcast deal. The BCCI — for 2014-15 — had received Rs 617 crore as the settlement and at the AGM on 9 November, 2015, had decided to distribute half of it equally among its full members who are entitled to grants. As a result, each state association had been allotted approximately Rs 12 crore in addition to its annual subsidy.
Interestingly, when the issue was discussed at the AGM, many members — it is reliably learnt — were not sure if the Lodha panel would allow it to be carried out.
The next hearing is slated for Thursday.