A "defiant" and "obstructionist" BCCI was today pushed to the backfoot by Supreme Court, which said its President Anurag Thakur and veteran official Ratnakar Shetty were "at odds" on the allegation that ICC's indulgence was sought to state that implementation of Lodha panel's recommendations and apex court directions tantamounted to government interference in its working.
"Thakur admits that he had asked ICC chairperson (Shashank Manohar) for a letter while Ratnakar Shetty's affidavit says he had not asked. Shetty's affidavit filed earlier is at odds with that of Anurag Thakur," a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud observed.
The bench, which reserved its order on the likely directions to be passed to the BCCI on implementation of the Lodha Committee recommendation for massive structural reform in the cash-rich sports body, took strong exception on the conflicting stand of Thakur and Shetty, General Manager (Cricket Operation), who were asked to file personal affidavits on October 7. They were asked to explain the allegation that ICC CEO Dave Richardson was asked by BCCI to issue a letter that Lodha panel's directions tantamounted to government interference.
Pushing both the cricket administrators to a sticky wicket, the bench wondered "Whether an attempt was made to secure a letter from ICC to state that the presence of CAG nominee in the apex council would tantamount to government interference in the BCCI working. "If this was so, can it be meant to say that it was an attempt not to comply with the recommendations of the Lodha committee and the Supreme Court judgement by stating that ICC is threatening to strip the membership of BCCI," the bench said after perusing their affidavits and submission made by senior advocate Gopal Subramanian, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae in the matter.
"Do we go into inquiry and go to the bottom of it? At every stage, there appears to be defiance and obstructionist approach", the bench said. Defending the two cricket administrators, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said "BCCI is being portrayed as a villain. It's like all wrong things are happening due to BCCI". "The remedy sought by Amicus Curiae will be worst than the disease," Sibal said, adding that BCCI does not want to show wilfull defiance.
The apex court, which was also told that the interview of ICC CEO on the issue of letter being sought by BCCI on Lodha recommendation, was on the website, said "Dave Richardson, ICC CEO, is a senior person and you are accusing him of making false statement, when the BCCI President is asking to issue a letter that inclusion of CAG nominee in the apex council amount to government interference in the working of the BCCI".
The bench noted that Thakur in his affidavit had made a referrence that Manohar had expressed his views that appointment of CAG nominee in the apex council would amount to governmental interference before that stand was rejected by the apex court in July 18 verdict.
"What Manohar had said is perfectly in order as once the judgement was passed rejecting the contention that nominee of CAG would tantamount to government interference there was an appointment in this regard," the bench said. It also warned if there was a false statement given by BCCI office bearers on affidavit, then perjury or contempt proceedings could be initiated. The day's hearing began with the perusal of Thakur's and Shetty's affidavits in which the former had also stated that he had taken part in a recent ICC meeting where he had pointed out to ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar that he, as the then BCCI President, had taken a view that Lodha panel recommendation on appointment of a CAG nominee in the apex council would amount to governmental interference and may invoke action of suspension of the Board from the ICC.
"I, therefore, requested him that he being the ICC chairman, can a letter be issued clarifying the position which he had taken as BCCI President," the affidavit of Thakur said. "Manohar explained to me at the meeting that when the stand was taken by him (as the then BCCI chief), the matter was pending before this court and had not been decided," the BCCI president said. The affidavit further said the apex court had later rejected BCCI's contention that the appointment of CAG nominee in the council would amount to governmental interference.
The apex court perused the affidavits filed by Thakur and Shetty in which the 41-year-old BCCI President outrightly denied having asked ICC CEO Richardson to state that the appointment of three-member committee headed by former Chief Justice of India R M Lodha committee would "tantamount to government interference" in the functioning of BCCI. The bench noted that Shetty in his affidavit has stated that no letter was sought from the ICC CEO as was alleged.
Subramaniam pointed out the contradictions in the affidavit and said that "an attempt was indeed made to seek a letter. ... This the man (Thakur) who is at the helm of the affairs, can he be trusted for implementation of the Lodha committee's recommendations and compliance of judgement." To this, the bench sought to peruse minutes of the meeting to find out as to what had transpired between Thakur and ICC chairperson Shashank Manohar saying BCCI president's affidavit was contrary to what Shetty has said.
The court noted from the record that the draft affidavit and Thakur's affidavit were in tune, but Shetty's affidavits filed earlier were different. Subramaniam then said the amounts received as compensation from ICC for cancellation of Champions Trophy was disbursed since August 8 onwards to several state associations even before the August 22 working committee meeting.
"There is a prima facie view that disbursal of funds was made to state associations as they all later said in unison that they will go clause by clause," he said. Subramaniam, supporting the Lodha panel recommendations for cricket administrators, said if the recomendation for structural reforms needed to be implemented, then he will go by the views of the committee.
"Lodha committee should not itself be allowed to take over the cricket body. Instead it should keep filing report in the court about the progress. There is no dearth of capable and upright persons for being appointed as cricket administrators," he said. He said "Judgement should be taken to logical conclusion. They have disdainfully obstructed the judgement. This kind of obstructionist behaviour is contemptous in both civil and criminal because there is repeated disobediance of judgement".
When Sibal took his turn to take BCCI, Thakur and Shetty out of a sticky wicket, the bench said in the Dubai meeting, Thakur had sought clarification from Manohar about his view while he was BCCI president about the Lodha committee recomendation on the presence of CAG nominee in the apex council. Now Thakur admits that it was a regular ICC meeting but earlier he had said that it was an informal meeting, it said.
Sibal said that BCCI was a body of a group of cricket associations and 3/4th of the associations were not willing to go by the recommendations and hence it needed some time to persuade these associations to comply with the reforms. To this, the court asked Sibal to openly say what is the problem in complying with judgement and reforms as recommended by Lodha panel. Sibal said there were several recommendation like taking away the voting rights of Bombay cricket association and Baroda cricket association and giving it to north eastern states. "Please do not take away the voting rights of our founder members. It will lead to further corruption. Some states do not have requisite infrastructure," he said adding that Lodha committee has no authority to decide the schedule.
The court said the problem with BCCI was that it did not want to share the largesse with other boards and if the Lodha panel does something beyond its jurisdiction, then BCCI can always comes to Supreme Court. The apex court will also pass its order on the plea of Lodha committee that cricket administrators should be appointed to carry out the reforms as suggested by the committee or court's direction. The apex court had on October 7 directed Thakur to explain by filing a "personal affidavit", the allegation "whether he had asked the CEO of the ICC to state that the appointment of Justice Lodha Committee was tantamount to government interference in the working of the BCCI".
It had ordered that no further amounts should be disbursed to state associations by BCCI, except where the State Association concerned passes a resolution saying it is agreeable to undertake and support the reforms as proposed and accepted by this Court in letter and spirit. The apex court had said that with regard to "the 13 State Associations to whom the payment has already been disbursed, shall not appropriate the amount, except after they have passed a resolution to abide by reforms suggested.