The Supreme Court of India is likely to pass its judgment on Friday on the long-running feud between Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the high-powered three-man Justice RM Lodha Committee appointed to clean up Indian cricket. On Thursday, the SC had asked the BCCI to give an undertaking saying it would not disburse funds to its member state affiliates if they refuse to carry out organisational reforms recommended by the Lodha Committee.
After senior lawyer and former MP Kapil Sibal, speaking on behalf of the cricket board, told the court that it would be difficult for the authorities to submit such an undertaking immediately, the court had given BCCI a 24-hour ultimatum to get its house in order. That ultimatum ends on Friday afternoon, and one way or another, the face of Indian cricket is set to change.
Chief Justice of India TS Thakur, who had also appointed the Lodha Committee, has repeatedly come down heavily on the BCCI, often censuring it for its organisational disarray, and refusal to implement recommendations suggested by the panel.
The court has also indicated to the BCCI that it may appoint a panel of administrators to oversee the transition in the apex body, or ask the Lodha Committee to do it.
The panel, headed by former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha, had suggested a slew of reforms to overhaul the face of cricket in India, including having the BCCI come under the purview of the RTI Act, "one-state-one-vote", an age cap of 70 years on office bearers, no politicians among the administration, etc.
On 28 September, the court had given the BCCI an ultimatum to accept and implement the Lodha panel's recommendations, and that the court "knew how to get its orders implemented". The court had given 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.
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, 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.
BCCI president Anurag Thakur remained defiant, 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, adding that those which the members felt there would present 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.
But on Wednesday, the apex court refused to accept the BCCI's contention, saying the board can have more time in implementing the reforms suggested, but not doing so was not an option. As per the apex court's landmark 18 June judgment, the BCCI has time till 18 November, extendable to 18 January, to carry out the organisational reforms.