BCCI vs Lodha panel: Supreme Court faces googly from Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi

In cricketing parlance, the Supreme Court order on the Lodha Committee recommendations could be termed a blinder. Except that the Attorney General of India, Mukul Rohatgi saw the catch dismissing his clients – Indian Railways, Armed Forces (Services) and Association of Indian Universities – from the main playing field of the BCCI, as a no-ball.

Rohatgi, appearing in the case for the first time, said that he had not been heard before and hence filed an interim application seeking recall of the 18 July ‘parent judgment’ in which the Supreme Court had accepted the Lodha Committee recommendations.

 BCCI vs Lodha panel: Supreme Court faces googly from Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi

Representational image. AFP

“I am seeking a recall of that judgment. I am an affected party and I was not heard”, he said.

The three bodies, Services, Railways and Universities, are currently associate members of BCCI, he pointed out.

“They were full time members with voting rights. Now they have been downgraded to associate members”, he said.

Although Gopal Subramaniam, Amicus Curiae of the court, said the same had already been decided, Rohtagi insisted that his parties were not heard while deciding the issue.

“Our full memberships were taken away from us by the Court without even issuing a notice to us. Tell us what was our fault? We promote teams, we have been promoting cricket for years, we give players jobs and they rise. We were full-time members,” the Attorney General said.

While he said that he had “no love lost” for BCCI but was bothered by his clients, opposing lawyers said this late intervention by the AG only revealed “a love affair” with the BCCI. However Kapil Sibal, representing a few state associations, welcomed it and said it was “about time you (Rohatgi) made an appearance in this case.”

Rohatgi also submitted that the issue regarding how much a private society’s internal affairs (even though it is of public importance) be interfered with has to be decided.

“The BCCI remains a private society despite its functions resembling that of a national character. Where is your jurisdiction? Take the case of Delhi (DDCA). It is a ‘company’ under Section 25 of the Companies Act. How can you decide the eligibility of the president, secretary and other office-bearers of a private company? These aspects have to be debated. We want a recall of the orders,” he submitted.

Addressing the issue of the Lodha Committee, Rohatgi said it “was appointed by this Court to punish those found guilty in the IPL match-fixing. Then you told them to reform cricket. Since when has the court become a reformist body?”

The bench, headed by Justice Dipak Misra, with Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud as members, said that it would examine various aspects of the plea later.

One aspect that the Court put to rest was the ambiguity with ruling on disqualification of office bearers of the BCCI and its affiliated units.

Para 25 (i) (f) of its 2 January order stated the following:

“All the office bearers of BCCI and of its affiliated State Associations who fail to meet the norms recommended by the Committee and accepted by this Court, shall forthwith demit and cease to hold office namely:

A person shall be disqualified from being an Office Bearer if he or she has been an Office Bearer of the BCCI for a cumulative period of nine years”

On Friday the court clarified that the nine year period shall be for BCCI and State Association separately and not a cumulative period of nine years in BCCI and State Associations. This immediately made a number of former office-bearers of the BCCI and State Units eligible, subject of course to ‘cooling off’ periods. It made ‘senior-most’ vice president of BCCI, CK Khanna eligible to become president. Joint secretary Amitabh Chaudhary and treasurer Anirudh Chaudhary also became eligible to hold office.

Importantly Ratnakar Shetty (GM, Game Development) and MV Sridhar (GM, Cricket Operations) would now continue in their respective roles and this would ensure that there is continuity with the operations part of BCCI and cricket till a proper long-term alternate system is put in place.

The Court was also seized of the list of names submitted for the role of Committee of Administrators. The Court said that it would give its ruling on the choice of names on 24 January but remarked that persons over the age of 70 would not find a place in the Committee. It further added that it would have lesser than nine members.

Meanwhile, Kapil Sibal wanted BCCI to protect its money. He said that the ICC meet in Dubai on  2 and 3 February  would decide the distribution of revenue of over Rs 8000 crore annually. He told the Court that BCCI had to be represented properly at the meet or it stood to lose a substantial sum of money each year and for many years to come.

“Sending someone new to the negotiations would be to the detriment of India’s cause,” he said and added that a “known face” should be nominated instead.

The Court said that it would look into the appointment of administrators on 24 January and then look into other administrative matters.

Watch this space.

Updated Date: Jan 21, 2017 11:08:53 IST