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'CoA gagging office bearers of fundamental rights'

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Ugra: CoA's approval of player contracts first step in this transfer of power (4:23)

Gaurav Kalra and Sharda Ugra discuss the Committee of Administrator's decision to completely strip the BCCI's office bearers of all powers (4:23)

A day after the Committee of Administrators (CoA) annulled all the powers of the BCCI's office bearers, the board's acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary has challenged the decision, questioning whether the committee had the legal powers to issue such directives. In an email sent on Friday, Choudhary has accused the CoA of attempting to "gag" the office bearers of their fundamental rights while granting itself "cardinal" rights to "supplant" the board's administrators.

Choudhary said it was "praiseworthy" of the CoA to list excerpts from the court order "purportedly" concerning its appointment on January 30, 2016, on reasons why it was equipped with powers to issue the fresh directives on Thursday. The CoA promptly responded to Choudhary, saying it would stick to the directives issued two days back.

Choudhary said, as per his reading of the twin court orders from last January, that it was clear that the CoA was appointed to carry on an "expeditious" implementation of the Lodha Committee recommendations and hence had been assigned supervisory powers of the management and administration of the board.

"The supervision part was only for the interim period and what is cardinal to the whole scheme is that the Hon'ble Apex Court was clear that the office bearers not only existed while you thought and believed they did not, they must discharge their responsibilities," Choudhary said in his email.

According to Choudhary, when it appointed the committee, the court was clear that the CoA had a "very limited and defined" role while the BCCI would "function" through its office bearers. Choudhary chided the CoA, saying it was attempting to "undermine" the role of the office bearers despite the court having blocked such a move in the past.

"The scheme does not even remotely suggest that the CoA could supplant the office bearers or the General Body of the BCCI. Yet right from day one, as has been demonstrated, the entire effort seems to be directed at ousting the office bearers, preventing the office bearers from functioning and repeatedly enjoining the court to do away with them which further strengthens the view that rather than implementation of the reforms your interest lies elsewhere."

One of the directives issued by the CoA was that the office bearers could not utilise board money to pay for individual petitions in the court concerning the ongoing hearing on the BCCI implementing a new constitution which would include the reforms finalised by the Lodha Committee.

By "suppressing" the office bearers, the CoA, Choudhary said, was only wanting to eliminate all contrary opinion in the BCCI. The timing of the CoA's latest diktat also bothered Choudhary, considering the court is likely to resume the hearing soon.

"There is now a further confirmation of your long standing effort to continue to run down the office bearers by going so far as even preventing them from appearing in Court through their counsels effectively gagging even their fundamental rights and ensuring that there is no contrary viewpoint before the Hon'ble Court," the email read.

The relationship between the CoA and the three office bearers comprising CK Khanna (acting BCCI president), Anirudh Chaudhry (treasurer) and Choudhary has always been tense. The differences have been so entrenched that the CoA has already twice asked the court to remove the office bearers in its seven status reports. In the latest report, the CoA told the court that the tenure of all three office bearers had expired on March 2 as per the existing constitution of the board and they should be replaced with immediate effect.

In the past month both Choudhary and the CoA have been involved in a bitter to-and-fro. The CoA chairman Vinod Rai took strong exception to Choudhary initiating a dialogue on India playing their inaugural day-night Test, potentially during the home series against West Indies later this year. Rai asked why the CoA was bypassed and placed the issue on hold until further deliberations were held between all stakeholders.

Last week Choudhary challenged the CoA's decision to approve the new player contracts despite not having the consent of the board's finance committee, the primary authority as per the board's rules. Choudhary said the office bearers had not been taken into confidence during the process of finalising the contracts.

Choudhary said in its attempt to take "ownership" of the board, the CoA had even ignored the general body, which so far had been the main decision-making body in the BCCI, while taking several decisions which could have huge financial implications. "The clear thought of the COA is of having ownership of the organisation with its assets and liabilities dehors (foreign to) the members who actually form the Board," Chaudhary said in his email. "Several decisions having huge financial implications on the BCCI, which under the rules and regulations of the BCCI can be taken only by the general body of the BCCI have been taken by the CoA and thus in effect the CoA has even supplanted the general body of the BCCI."

The player contracts and the media rights for Indian cricket, which are set to be sold via an e-auction for the first time, were among the examples Choudhary cited in his email of the CoA taking unilateral decisions without consulting the office bearers and while bypassing the BCCI general body. "Revision of salary of the BCCI staff, grant of increments to the staff even before they were due, new categorisation of players and finalising the players contracts, change of procedure for auction of media rights, are only of few of such decisions which were entirely within the domain of the general body of the board."