The Supreme Court on Thursday sent a stern message to BCCI asking it to “fall in line” with the recommendations of Justice R M Lodha Committee which has suggested a massive restructuring of the country’s apex cricket body.
The Lodha committee, appointed by the Supreme Court in January 2015, recommended a complete overhaul of Indian cricket so its effects could bore down to the starting blocks and affect the sport at its core. The Lodha report was presented to the court last month.
The apex court said the recommendations are “straight, rational and understandable” and “deserve respect” and “there is no reason to disagree with the committee” which has the most “illuminated and respected members of the legal community”.
While four weeks time was granted to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to respond on the implementation of the recommendations of the Lodha Committee, the court made it clear that since ample opportunity was given to all stakeholders over a long period and their views were taken into consideration before preparing the final report, there should not be any difficulty in accepting the recommendations.
The remarks by a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur came after senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, representing BCCI, said there was a need to consult the 30-odd members of the Board on the recommendations and in view of its legal committee’s meeting on February 7, four weeks be allowed to respond.
However, the bench said “they all have been heard and have given their views to the Committee. Ask your client to take a strict view of the recommendations. You can’t jump the gun. You must see the recommendations. These recommendations deserve respect. They have come from the most illuminated and respected members of the legal community. They had invited people and have done extensive deliberations with all stakeholders. The recommendations are straightforward, understandable and rational.”
“The best thing is to fall in line and follow the suggestions to save the trouble,” the bench, which also comprised Justice F M I Kalifulla, said.
“Your members have been wielding power for long... The match is over. There will be no second innings here,” Chief Justice of India Tirath Singh Thakur made the Supreme Court’s resolve clear to the top cricket body, reports The Hindu.
ESPNcricinfo reports that the most important recommendations aim to transform the board's power structure. It changed the BCCI's electorate to one association per state - some states have three - and removed the vote from associations without territorial definitions (e.g., Railways and Services).
“Ultimately any transition and change has to come with whatever problems it has,” the bench said while accepting the Committee’s report which also exonerated former Chief Operating Officer of IPL Sunder Raman of all charges. The BCCI had submitted that it should not be seen as “obstructionist” and it would come back with “concrete suggestions” after the meeting of the legal committee. However, the bench said “decks must be cleared for complete reform”.
When Naphade said several technical problems would arise in implementing the recommendations of the committee as BCCI is registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, the bench said it would give the solution for following the suggestions.
“We will find an easy solution. We have simple solutions. We will accept all recommendations. We will say that since BCCI has difficulties and impediments in respecting and implementing the recommendations, we will direct the same committee to push all recommendations. They will tell you where to get the registration. We will ask the judges (in the committee) to help BCCI in implementing the recommendations.
“We don’t want or intend or dictate a lengthy order. We want and we would end by directing that committee to steer the BCCI in implementation of the recommendations,” the bench said.
Realising the tough stand taken by the bench, Naphade said “I can see the writing on the wall.”
The bench said there was not much complication in the recommendations and if BCCI found any anomaly it can be looked into.
The Supreme Court refused BCCI any extra time to study the Lodha panel recommendations, reports CNN IBN.
“There is no reason to disagree with the committee,” the bench said while making it clear that some people are going to be affected by the implementation of the Justice Lodha Committee’s recommendations.
But some BCCI units remain defiant, reports The Indian Express.
The bench, which was hearing the plea filed by Aditya Verma, Secretary of Cricket Association of Bihar, on whose petition N Srinivasan was asked by the apex court to step down as the BCCI President for conflict of interest, posted the matter for further hearing on March 3.
Senior advocate Indu Malhotra, appearing for Cricket Association of Bihar, read out a portion of the Lodha panel report saying that it was not only an articulate and logical analysis of BCCI affairs but also presented very effective and logical solutions to weed out the rot in the cash-rich body.
The bench agreed with several recommendations, including that no state should be allowed to have two cricket boards as was prevalent in Maharashtra, Gujarat and a few others.
However, Naphade said there was a history behind having more than one cricket board in some states and resolving those issues based on the Lodha panel report may give rise to political problems.
Malhotra said BCCI was not in line with the recommendation on the issue of appointment of an ombudsman. The bench also agreed with the report that there was no need of representation of vice presidents from all the five zones and there should be one state, one vote, three-year cooling off period after every tenure, restricted tenures for office-bearers, no more proxy voting and pruning of number of vice-presidents from five to one.
Further, it was in agreement with the Committee that a person should not be allowed to consecutively hold office and the maximum period should not exceed more than nine years.
The apex court-appointed Lodha Committee on January 4 recommended sweeping reforms and an administrative shake-up for the troubled BCCI by suggesting that ministers be barred from occupying positions, a cap put on the age and tenure of the office-bearers and legalisation of betting.
In a series of drastic recommendations, the three-member panel, also compring formers apex court judges — Ashok Bhan and R V Raveendran also suggested that one unit should represent only one state, while taking away the voting rights of institutional and city-based units.
It suggested restructuring of the BCCI’s administrative set-up, proposing the position of a CEO to run daily affairs of the Board accountable to a nine-member apex council.
Among the most sensational suggestions by the Lodha panel was the one on legalising betting. It felt that the move would help curb corruption in the game and recommended that except for players and officials, people should be allowed to place bets on registered websites.
Among other steps, panel said that to ensure transparency in the BCCI’s functioning, it was important to bring the body under the purview of the RTI Act, something that the Board has vehemently opposed in the past citing its autonomy.
Another important decision taken by the committee was to clear former IPL COO Sundar Raman, who was alleged to have contacts with bookies. The panel said there was not enough evidence to indict Raman.
With PTI inputs