The Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) long-standing dispute with the high-powered Lodha Committee is likely to come to a conclusion on Thursday, when the matter's final hearing is heard in the Supreme Court. The court's verdict could potentially determine the future of cricket in the country.
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".
Chief Justice of India (CJI) TS Thakur, who heads the Supreme Court bench that appointed the Lodha Committee, gave the BCCI one week to get its house in order. Thursday will be the first time BCCI has got a chance to present its case in court since that hearing.
"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.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar appearing for the BCCI said they have complied with most of the directions and would gradually comply with the rest. To this, the bench had said, "The law needs not to be defied. We are not happy about things going on. We anticipated this approach from BCCI but this is not done. You will have to fall in line with the directions of the court."
BCCI's subsequent SGM
But if one felt the BCCI would buckle down and keep a low profile following the censure, one couldn't have been more mistaken. Three days after the SC hearing, the BCCI held its Special General Meeting (SGM), where it rejected most of the Lodha Committee's recommendations. BCCI president Anurag Thakur remained defiant on Saturday following the SGM, saying it was "up to members of the board to accept or reject the Lodha Committee's suggestions".
"Many significant recommendations of Lodha Committee were accepted by BCCI members," said Thakur, but those which the members felt there would be legal challenges or practical difficulties have not been accepted. "We have invited the members to adopt the Lodha Committee recommendations and the members have given their viewpoints and what they feel of the recommendations. A detailed report will be submitted to the Supreme Court and will be sent to the Lodha Committee, also what the members felt and why they have accepted (some recommendations) and not accepted (some others)," he added.
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. They have also not accepted the recommendation on the selection panel, which called for three selectors, instead of five, and with Test experience. 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 frenzied day of accusations and clarifications, with the BCCI initially threatening to cancel the ongoing Test series against New Zealand, and Justice RM Lodha saying funds for routine matters and day-to-day expenditures will not be affected by the court's decision.
On Wednesday, one day before the Supreme Court hearing, the BCCI said it was still "confused" about the kind of payments that can be made from the two bank accounts which had come under the scanner of the Supreme Court-appointed panel, adding that they will wait for the judgment to come in to get clarity about the issue.
The Board has also roped in senior lawyer and former MP Kapil Sibal to counsel it about the legalese involved. If the Supreme Court accepts the Lodha Committee's recommendations again, it could well mean the board's top officials are all removed and replaced by a panel of court-appointed overseers.
With inputs from agenices