New Delhi: Supreme Court on Tuesday removed the hurdles created by state cricket associations on the holding of the India-England test series by allowing BCCI to incur the expense of Rs 58.66 lakh for the first match starting on Wednesday, warning that no part of fund will go to the host Saurashtra Cricket Association.
The apex court also gave more teeth to the committee headed by former Chief Justice of India Justice R M Lodha for monitoring the working of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) by allowing it to vet hundreds of contracts with vendors for holding of domestic, international and IPL matches in 2017.
It said the arrangement for the first match would continue for the subsequent test matches till 3 December, when it will hear the matter already scheduled.
A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur also took strong exception to the language used against the Lodha panel by BCCI top brass, including its Secretary Ajay Shirke in his communication with the panel.
Lodha Committee Secretary Gopal Shankar Narayan, an advocate, complained that the use of words and the statements issued by them was akin to "constant insult" heaped on the panel comprising the former CJI and two retired judges of the apex court.
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, drew the attention of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the BCCI, to certain sentences from the Board's secretary's letter, saying "see the kind of language used by Shirke."
The apex court took note of the submissions made by senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae in the matter, that BCCI has failed to comply with the directions of the top court, which was clear from the second report of the Lodha Committee placed before the bench on Tuesday.
Agreeing with the submission and the demand of the Lodha panel that it needed secretarial support to monitor BCCI's functioning, the bench said, "It is appropriate that the committee is vested with power to engage experts in different specific fields considered necessary for finalising the contracts in question."
Since this demand was not objected to by the BCCI, the bench said "In the circumstances, we authorise the committee to engage such administrative, secretarial staff and engage the service of experts to determine the amount to be paid by BCCI for contracts for holding various domestic, international and IPL matches for the 2017 season."
The bench said the remuneration for the experts and the secretarial staff would be determined by the committee and the expenses borne by the BCCI.
At the outset, Sibal said, "Today, what we need is an order as the test match is starting tomorrow and no funds have been released. Let the committee be directed to allow the release of funds, otherwise the match will not take place."
"There is a contract between the BCCI and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)," he said, adding it has nothing to do with the state associations which are not complying with the recommendations of the committee for structural reforms including the appointment of independent auditors.
While permitting the BCCI to incur the expenditure for the first test match at Rajkot, the bench made it clear that payments have to be made directly to the parties concerned with various contracts and no part of the fund will go to Saurashtra Cricket Association.
It directed that BCCI will maintain a book of actual expenditure which has to be furnished to Lodha committee for verification by its auditor who has to be appointed expeditiously by the panel.
The bench, which directed BCCI to render all assistance to the Lodha committee, also asked Sibal to warn the board officials against making insulting remarks against the panel members, who are the retired judges of the apex court.
During the hearing, Sibal also complained about the "attitude" of the committee claiming that despite there being no order from the apex court, the panel was insisting on giving an undertaking before being given a chance for hearing.
The day's hearing was on the application moved by BCCI which had rushed to the apex court seeking disbursal of funds to the state cricket associations, saying non-disbursal would lead to cancellation of the first cricket test match to be played between India and England at Rajkot on Wednesday.
The matter was first mentioned before another bench as the CJI was sitting in a constitution bench of seven judges.
While making the mention for urgent hearing, Sibal submitted that if money was not given, then the match would have to be cancelled on Wednesday.
The counsel representing the Lodha panel told the bench headed by Justice A R Dave that the cricket body was in contempt by not obeying the apex court's direction in the issue.
"You (Lodha panel) can proceed in contempt but you cannot stall the matches," Sibal said highlighting the fact that disbursal of funds to the state cricket association was vital for holding cricket match between India and England.
In the earlier hearing, the apex court had made it clear that there will be no disposal of funds to the state cricket bodies till they file an undertaking that they would comply with the recommendations of the Lodha panel on reforms in cricket in the country.
The apex court had on 21 October directed BCCI president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke to give an undertaking on affidavit before the Lodha committee and in apex court by 3 December stating how much time they would need to implement the reforms recommended by the panel.