The Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) long-standing dispute with the Lodha Committee reached fever pitch on Monday, with the Supreme Court ordering the removal of board president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke for being defiant and stalling on the reforms recommended by the panel. The Court also issued a contempt notice to Anurag Thakur for perjury.
"The Supreme Court passes an order directing the BCCI president and secretary to desist from any board functions from hereon," said the ruling.
The order comes after judges also slapped restrictions on the BCCI's accounts last year over its failure to implement a series of reforms recommended by a panel headed by a former top judge, Rajendra Mal Lodha.
Responding to the latest judgement, Lodha said that it was an inevitable consequence of the board's foot-dragging.
"One should understand that when the order of the Supreme Court, which is the highest court of the land, has come, it has to be obeyed by all. It is the law of the land. Nobody can escape it," Lodha told reporters. "There were obstructions. There were impediments. We fixed the timeline that was not adhered to. We submitted three reports before the Supreme Court, even then it was not implemented."
Earlier, the apex court had told the BCCI to "fall in line or we will make you fall in line", after its continued reluctance over implementing the Lodha recommendations. The main points of discord between the two parties have been the age cap of 70 years on administrators, cooling off period of three years between terms, and the one state one vote policy, which were recommended by the SC-appointed panel. The BCCI had said that it had accepted most of the recommendations of the Lodha panel, but put the rejection of the few recommendations down to the disagreement of the state associations over it.
The SC hearing on the case has been long pending, with a number of adjournments and delays. Here is a rundown of all the important events that lead to this crucial verdict:
The previous hearings in the Supreme Court have gone against the BCCI, with the judges not taking a sympathetic view of the board's functioning. On 28 September, the court had given the BCCI an ultimatum to adhere to the Lodha panel's recommendations for the overhaul of Indian cricket, and that the court "knew how to get its orders implemented". Since 6 October, the SC has deferred the hearing multiple times, incessantly giving the BCCI ultimatums to adopt the reforms suggested by the Lodha Committee.
"BCCI thinks it is a law unto itself. We know how to get our orders implemented. BCCI thinks it is the lord. You (BCCI) better fall in line or we will make you fall in line. The conduct of the BCCI is in poor taste," Justice Thakur was quoted as saying after the 28 September hearing.
On 13 December, the SC rejected the board's review plea on the court's previous recommendation to implement the reforms proposed by the panel. "We have examined the grounds urged in support of the prayer for review. We find no error apparent on the face of the record to warrant recall of our order dated 18 July, 2016. The review petitions are, accordingly, dismissed," a bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice SA Bobde said.
Meanwhile, on 15 December, the Supreme Court threatened to initiate contempt and perjury proceedings against Anurag Thakur for asking the ICC CEO Dave Richardson for a letter stating that the appointment of a CAG nominee in the cricket body would compromise autonomy and amount to government interference, but denying it under oath. The Court warned he could go to jail if found guilty.
The bench, comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur, Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud had pulled up the BCCI for trying to mislead the court and warned Thakur that he may land in jail if the apex court pronounces its order in perjury proceedings.
"Why are you trying to mislead the court? If you want to escape perjury charges, you ought to apologise. At every stage you have been trying to obstruct. Everyone wants to go around and continue to hold the post even after 70 years. This is such a lucrative business that everyone wants to go on forever.
"Freedom of expression allows you to disagree with the order but you can't obstruct implementation of order. Once we pronounce the order (in perjury proceedings), you will have no other place to go except jail," the court said.
The top court also referred to a letter by the current ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar and said even he has said that Thakur had asked for such a letter, which he had refused.
Rejection of recommendations
Setting the stage for the next round of confrontations with the Supreme Court, the Board had rejected key recommendations of the Lodha Committee, like one-state one-vote, a maximum age limit of 70 years and a cooling-off period of three years. However, they did accept a few significant recommendations, including induction of the representative of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) as a member of the Apex Council as well as the IPL Governing Council, and the formation of the Apex Council with certain modifications.
With the BCCI not content to play ball, the Lodha panel had asked banks to stop the board's disbursements, effectively ensuring the decisions taken at the SGM will not be executed. This led to a frenzy of accusations and clarifications, with the BCCI threatening to cancel the Test series against New Zealand and England. Both parties stood defiant while the clock-ticked on the BCCI's impending doom.
Sack them all
On 21 November, the Lodha Committee recommended the sacking of all office-bearers of the BCCI, after their "continued non-compliance" with SC appointed panel. "Appointment of GK Pillai, former Union Home Secretary, as the Observer of the BCCI to supervise the administration of the BCCI by the CEO and empower the Committee to appoint all necessary secretarial staff, assistance and fix remuneration as may be determined appropriate," the committee further added.
The BCCI's TV rights tender allotment process also got delayed, which led to them showing signs of real worry. They asked their State Associations to have a 'Plan B' ready ahead of the court's final hearing.
The decision kept getting deferred all through December for various reasons. But on 2 January, the Supreme Court reached a decision that has the potential to have far-reaching effects on the sport in India.
With inputs from agencies