BCCI 'should have taken us seriously', says Justice Lodha after SC strips office-bearers of power

The judge, whose recommendations brought sweeping changes in the world’s largest cricket board, says the BCCI should have taken his words seriously.

“I am done with it, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should have avoided the situation to come to such a sad end, it should have reacted earlier,” former chief justice of India, Rajendra Mal Lodha said in an exclusive interview.

"I am done with a very difficult assignment of my life."

File photo of Justice RM Lodha. AFP

File photo of Justice RM Lodha. AFP

He said the BCCI should have realised the importance of the country’s apex court and taken its repeated advice seriously. “Hopefully, the BCCI will now realise that no one is above the law in this country and any decision of the Supreme Court is final, and must be abided in total.”

Justice Lodha headed a panel appointed by the Supreme Court to oversee reforms in the BCCI.

The former judge said he would not call the Supreme Court-directed assignment the most difficult of his life but said it was “tough, considering the importance of the game in India, and also the importance of those who run the game in India”.

“A clean-up was on the cards, it was pending for almost a year. And now that it has happened, the BCCI must set its house in order,” Justice Lodha said. He refused to be drawn into a discussion on whether the Supreme Court should have removed the entire set of BCCI officials and not just president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Sirke.

“It is not for me to comment, but the BCCI showed a total act of defiance, it should not have done that. It should have acted immediately on recommendations, especially when the same were accepted by the Supreme Court. But strangely, it did not react, probably did not want to react.

“It was a strange defiance. But for me, I went for a fair game, I played by the rules, didn’t expect the board to act the way it did,” said the former Chief Justice of India.

Justice Lodha said he had, time and again, warned the cricket board from defying rules of the Supreme Court but often “my voice was misinterpreted”. Justice Lodha was referring to his decision to stop the board from disbursing cash to state associations.

“When I asked the board not to disburse funds to the state bodies, it was all over the media that I had stopped funds for routine matters. This happened when everything was written down, on the mail. So where is the scope for any confusion? If the committee felt it was important to take a call on some of the expenses planned by the board it was for the board to respond.

“The board should have taken us seriously, because we were mandated by the Supreme Court,” said Justice Lodha, adding that it pained him to see some were painting him as the villain of piece, while he was only doing his duties as per the apex court’s directions.

In the BCCI cash disbursal case, top sources in the BCCI were quoted in a section of the media saying their accounts were frozen and that they would have no other option but to starve the state bodies and stop all development work across the country. Worse, BCCI sources were even quoted by newspapers saying they would have no option but to cancel a cricket series against the visiting New Zealand side. Some newspaper reports even blamed Justice Lodha, arguing the New Zealand tour was on the verge of being cancelled by the BCCI which was facing an acute cash shortage.

Justice Lodha’s slugfest with BCCI on cash disbursals emerged after the board, at its Emergent Working Committee meeting on 30 September, 2016, decided to disburse large funds to the various member associations. But Lodha stepped in, saying the BCCI could not push in financial disbursement of the amounts unless it was approved by the Supreme Court-appointed committee. The apex court, in fact, had issued a direction on 31 August, 2016.

Asked if he would join the BCCI if called upon by the world’s richest cricket board in the capacity of an ombudsman, Justice Lodha replied in the negative.

“I have done my job, and moved ahead. Cricket is not the only thing in my life. I was mandated by the Supreme Court to push in reforms in the board. I have done it, the court has taken notice and reacted to it. There is nothing left for me to do now.”

Updated Date: Jan 02, 2017 14:25 PM

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