<
>

Supreme Court issues notice to BCCI office bearers

Rajiv Shukla and Anirudh Chaudhry attend the IPL governing council meet PTI

The Supreme Court has issued notices to and summoned three BCCI office bearers - CK Khanna (BCCI's acting president), Amitabh Choudhary (acting secretary) and Anirudh Chaudhry (treasurer) - for the next hearing on September 19, asking them to explain why they have failed to implement the Lodha Committee recommendations.

The court was responding to the latest status report filed by the Committee of Administrators (CoA), in which the committee said that there was a "need to direct" all three office bearers to "forthwith cease and desist" from continuing in the BCCI till fresh elections were held.

The CoA had also asked the court to order that the committee, along with the BCCI's professional management led by its chief executive officer Rahul Johri, take complete charge of the board in the interim. But the court deferred a decision on that request, effectively meaning Khanna, Choudhary and Chaudhry can continue in their posts.

The court's pronouncement cannot be misread as a relief to the office bearers, however. Khanna, Choudhary and Chaudhry had given written undertakings to the court in January saying they would ensure the BCCI implemented the reforms. Those undertakings were sought by the court after it sacked Anurag Thakur and Ajay Shirke, the BCCI president and secretary, for failing to honour their written submissions where they had stated the board would implement the reforms.

On Wednesday, the court also directed the two-member CoA panel (comprising Vinod Rai and Diana Edulji) to draft the new BCCI constitution as per the approved reforms, barring the three it said it would revisit during the previous hearing on July 24. Back then, the court passed an interim order asking the BCCI to implement the reforms as far as "practicable" so that the "'gentleman's game' remains nearly perfect". The court had also said that it was willing to reopen debate over some of the reforms "pertaining to membership, number of members of the selection committee, concept of associate membership, etc".

Two days later, at a special general meeting (SGM), the BCCI members - the state associations - "unanimously" agreed to implement all but five of the reforms approved by the court in its original judgement of July 18 last year. Furious, the CoA said that the BCCI had handpicked from reforms that formed the "fundamental core" of the recommendations that were approved by the court originally.

The five broad reforms the BCCI wants the court reconsider comprise: membership status which includes the one-state-one-vote reform, disqualification of office bearers, ministers and government officials based on eligibility criteria such as the age cap, tenure and cooling-off period, the strength of the Apex Council - which replaces the existing working committee - the division of powers between the office bearers and the professional management, and strength of the national selection committee.

Those objections, the CoA noted in the status report, were "nothing short of gross abuse/contempt". On Wednesday, Gopal Subramanium, the amicus curiae in the case, echoed the sentiment. "The objections to the recommendations expressed in the meeting (SGM) seeks to erode fundamental aspects of Lodha Committee recommendations and the principal judgement," Subramanium said in a 23-page submission in the court. "It was clear that anything that affected the vested interests of the concerned individuals was not acceptable to the office bearers of BCCI and the state associations."

In his expansive note, Subraminum outlined the "systematic manner" in which the BCCI office bearers and state associations had "repeatedly" played the obstructionist role in not implementing the reforms. In its principal judgement of July 18 last year the court had given the BCCI a maximum of six months to implement the approved reforms. "Over a year has since passed," Subramaniam said. "The conduct of the stakeholders has throughout been that of veiled non-cooperation."

He also said that the CoA, having realised the "portrayal of the purported intention" of the office bearers at both BCCI and state associations was merely a "farce", was forced to request "sweeping directions" from the court including removal of board's top three administrators - Khanna, Choudhary and Chaudhry.

Subramanium agreed with the CoA that if "stringent" steps were not taken, the court's principal order was in danger of staying as a dead letter. "The fact that two august Committees have conveyed considerable difficulties in resolving the deadlocks evidences the resoluteness of all involved to make a mockery of Justice and Rule of Law. Permitting such a course of action will be detrimental to the public perception of the sanctity attached to the judgements rendered by this Honourable Court.

"This Honourable Court has been magnanimous in accommodating the grievances of all parties to ensure that justice is done. However, all efforts have been designedly defeated with the sole intention to avoid implementation of the judgement by triggering all fathomable objections."