The Supreme Court of India has said there is, on first impression, a charge of perjury that can be laid against BCCI president Anurag Thakur and the board's general manager of game development Ratnakar Shetty for lying under oath.
The court also reserved its order on the Lodha Committee's suggestion to remove ineligible BCCI office bearers and appoint former civil servant GK Pillai as an observer to oversee business operations of the board. After the BCCI rejected Pillai during Thursday's hearing, the court asked the board to submit, by December 23, the names of three people who could replace the existing office bearers and govern the BCCI.
The court suggested former India allrounder Mohinder Amarnath as one of the names. It is expected to hear the matter again after the winter vacation, which ends on January 2.
The issue of perjury arose because Thakur, in an affidavit, had denied that he sought a letter from the ICC stating that the Lodha Committee's recommendation to have a member of the Comptroller and Auditor General's office on the apex council of the BCCI amounted to government interference in the board. Thakur's request had been revealed by ICC chief executive David Richardson in an interview to an Indian TV channel.
Thakur had said he only asked ICC chairman Shashank Manohar what his stance on the matter had been when he was the BCCI president. "I pointed out to the Chairman of the ICC, Mr Shashank Manohar that, when he was President of BCCI, he had taken a view that the recommendations of the Justice Lodha committee appointing the nominee of the CAG on the Apex Council would amount to governmental interference, and might invoke an action of suspension from ICC," Thakur had said in his affidavit. "I therefore requested him that, being the ICC Chairman, can a letter be issued clarifying the position which he had taken as BCCI President."
Shetty, in an affidavit on October 7, had denied that Thakur had sought ICC intervention at all. Observing there was a "variance' between Thakur and Shetty's submissions, the court said: "Mr Shetty in his response to the status report claims that the CEO of ICC had 'falsely' stated in his interview that the President of BCCI had requested ICC to issue a letter stating that the intervention of this Court amounted to governmental interference. The version of Mr Shetty is at variance to what is alleged to have been stated by the CEO of ICC."
On Thursday, the court said there appeared to be evidence against Thakur and Shetty of lying under oath and asked the BCCI to submit relevant documents to avoid perjury. "Prima facie it seems that Anurag Thakur has perjured and lied under oath because of the letter to Manohar. It is a case of prosecution," Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said during the hearing. "You had no occasion to approach Manohar. Where was the occasion to raise the issue once we had pronounced on this. This amounts to perjury."
The court asked Kapil Sibal, the lawyer representing the BCCI president, to "apologise" if Thakur wanted to "escape" an adverse order against him.
Sibal explained to the court that his client's question to Manohar was not against court intervention but whether appointment of the CAG official on the Apex Council would amount to government interference.
According to Lodha Committee secretary Gopal Sankaranaryanan, there was a discrepancy in the affidavit submitted by Thakur and the letter submitted by Manohar. "In [Anurag] Thakur's version of events it is a clarification he had sought. In Manohar's version of events, he said as ICC chairman I was asked to give a letter, not a clarification, saying that this amounts to interference. For me this amounts to variance."
The Amicus Curiae Gopal Subramnium had in earlier hearings told the court that Thakur was playing an obstructionist role and impeding the implementation of the Lodha Committee's recommendations. "The whole issue is that of there is a person [Anurag Thakur] obstructing and in contempt of court. Then should he head the BCCI?" Chief Justice Thakur said on Thursday. "We have given opportunities and time. Don't do something unpleasant."
Sibal reiterated the BCCI's point that it could not force the state associations to accept the Lodha recommendations, and that a majority vote was needed to pass them. At several board meetings, the states had voiced opposition to most of the Lodha Committee's recommendations: in particular, the one-state-one-vote policy, the age cap for office bearers, and the limits on tenure.
The court replied by saying that one option was to supercede the office bearers, as suggested by the Lodha Committee. "You supercede them," the court said. "Who should be appointed in your place, give us recommendation in next one week."
The Lodha Committee - comprising former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha and retired Supreme Court judges Ashok Bhan and R Raveendran - was formed in January 2015 to determine appropriate punishments for some of the officials involved in the 2013 IPL corruption scandal, and also to propose changes to streamline the BCCI, reform its functioning, prevent sporting fraud and conflict of interest.
In January 2016, the committee released its report, which recommended an exhaustive overhaul of the BCCI's governance and administrative structures. On July 18, the Supreme Court approved the majority of the recommendations and directed the Lodha Committee to supervise the BCCI's implementations of the same. However, despite the Lodha Committee laying out timelines and other directives, the board has not cooperated because its state associations objected to the recommendations.