New Delhi: The prestigious Cricket Club of India (CCI) of Mumbai on Monday faced some tough questions on its resistance to structural reforms in the BCCI from the Supreme Court which said the purpose was to clean the system and make the board more transparent, objective, accountable and representative.
The CCI, which played a crucial role in BCCI's formation and owns the Brabourne Stadium -- India's first permanent sporting venue -- was opposing Justice R M Lodha Committee recommendation for 'one-state, one-association', saying it will alter and dilute its various rights including right to vote and also affect its status as full member which it has enjoyed since the inception of BCCI.
The contention of CCI, which came into existence in 1933, got the support of Sharad Pawar-headed Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), but a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur was not convinced that Lodha committee's recommendation would violate the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(c) which gives the right to form association.
"If Lodha Committee recommendation is accepted, it is not violating your rights under 19 (1)(c). Also keep in mind, what is the purpose of the guidelines recommended by the Committee.
The purpose is to clean the system, to make BCCI more transparent, open, objective and to make it more accountable and more responsive and representative.
"If the structural changes in the BCCI, as recommended, are accepted, there will be far more openness and it will bring more transparency," the bench also comprising Justice F M I Kalifulla said when senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the BCCI, was arguing that the court should refrain from making compulsory all the recommendations of Lodha panel.
The bench said, "On principle, you have to accept that the purpose of the whole exercise starting from the judgement delivered (in January 2015) was meant to achieve a very laudable and deserving result to make BCCI a transparent, open, credible, objective and responsive body to inspire confident and credible system and to achieve that objective we will be very careful that the recommendations are not violative of fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1) (c)."
The bench questioned the CCI for opposing the one-state, one-vote formula, asking it whether after an objective assessment of Lodha committee recommendations, it can say there is no reason why it has no right to vote.
"Territory is big and more important than to say why it can't have the right to vote," the bench said, adding that the purpose of the exercise was "to streamline, for which it is necessary to remove undeserving rights enjoyed by certain persons."
"If we have to go by you, it appears that the continuance of BCCI is beyond repair," the bench said, adding that BCCI was not a private body and was accountable and answerable.
"Even if you consider BCCI a private entity, it conducts a public function and Lodha committee has examined what changes are required and what actually in it can inspire confidence," the bench said.
While the CCI was lauding about its initiative and infrastructure for the development of cricket, the bench asked some searching questions about finance for its functioning.
"Why are you not receiving any money from BCCI for promoting the game? What is your income for five years? Do you have the balance sheet to show and how the other activities are carried out? We will have an idea why you are not getting financial support from BCCI," the bench asked and added "it is very rare to find that you go on with cricket activity and you need no support of finance."
The bench also made it clear that Lodha Committee was not interfering with the management of CCI when it recommended that if there are more than one associations in the state they can be associate members without a voting right.
"Lodha committee is not interfering with your right to management. You can carry out your activities whether it is a table tennis match or badminton tournament. You can also have your bar running. There is no interference," it observed.
"You can say my right to associate with BCCI to vote is affected but you are a company and not a citizen and that certain rights are only guaranteed to citizens and not to the company. The plain reading of Article 19 1(c) does not allow you the protection," the bench further said.
"The first question is are you a citizen? If you are not, your right is not violated. 19(1)(c) will come if Lodha Committee changes the character of the company. In BCCI you are there only as individual members to vote. Members in the BCCI are not individuals but all associations," the bench added.
After CCI, the MCA, the richest cricket body among associations, commenced its submission by saying that in case one-state-one-vote is implemented, it will be the full member and have the voting right from Maharashtra, evoking sharp reaction from BCCI counsel K K Venugopal who said there was no such suggestions by the Lodha panel.
Even the bench wondered and asked a senior counsel appearing for it who said "I (MCA) am the richest club."
The MCA said it was in favour of the multiple full members from the states.
When the MCA was making the submissions that full membership should be based on the cricketing population, the bench questioned as to how the Goa Cricket Association has the status of full membership and it got funds to the tune of Rs 141 crore.
"There has been no international player ever emerging from Goa which is getting so much of funds. Has Goa produced any international cricketer," the bench asked.