India news January 17, 2019

Pandya-Rahul case in limbo after SC adjourns hearing

© BCCI

An imminent return of Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul to the Indian set-up has been ruled out with the Supreme Court on Thursday adjourning - without giving a next date of hearing - the case pertaining to the Lodha Committee reforms. Several issues, including the fate of the two cricketers and the BCCI's elections, are due to be resolved but the court said it would proceed with the case only after the appointment of an amicus curiae to replace Gopal Subramanium, who left that post recently after holding it for several years.

The two-judge bench of Justices SA Bobde and AM Sapre has nominated PS Narsimha, senior advocate in the court, to replace Subramanium and said it would hear the case if and when Narsimha accepted the role.

The disciplinary issue of the two players is tied to the appointment of a BCCI ombudsman, the board's final adjudicating authority under its constitution. The post has been vacant since Justice AP Shah finished his term in late 2016 and the Committee of Administrators has asked the court for directions on a new appointment.

The BCCI legal team had advised the CoA that the process of adjudicating on the players would involve an initial inquiry to be done by Johri (see sidebar), which would then be sent to an ombudsman whose ruling would be final and binding. This issue saw a split between the two members of the CoA - chairman Vinod Rai said if the court did not appoint an ombudsman, he would consult the amicus curiae to pick an ad-hoc ombudsman, while Diana Edulji said that she would not support any hasty inquiry because that would only amount to a "cover up" exercise. Incidentally, Edulji was present in court today along with her legal counsel.

The CoA counsels Parag Tripathi and CU Singh told the court appointing the ombudsman was essential, not only to decide the fate of the players but also in that it would remove all the roadblocks for the BCCI and the states to comply with the Lodha reforms.

On the other hand, the BCCI members have said it's their right to pick the ombudsman. The Solicitor General of India, appearing for the BCCI's government-affiliated members, made this point today when he intervened to say that only the BCCI had the powers to appoint an ombudsman, and it can only be done post elections. The court said that without the new amicus curiae taking charge, no decision could be taken.

Legal counsels for various state associations told the court they had applications pending on the recall of the order last August, which had approved the new BCCI constitution as per the reforms. The states still had reservations about a few significant reforms pertaining to the tenure of the office bearers and the disqualification criteria. The CoA, in its tenth status report, had told that court that not one of the 34 BCCI members had become fully compliant.

Additional reporting by Jonathan Selvaraj

Nagraj Gollapudi is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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