New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) whether it is not amenable to any reform or if it is refusing to be reformed.
Angered by the stiff resistance from senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the BCCI, against most of the recommendations of the Lodha panel, the Supreme Court observed that the Board is refusing to be reformed.
Venugopal submitted before a bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) T.S. Thakur and Ibrahim Kalifulla that many of the reforms suggested cannot be implemented, to which the CJI retorted “You collect say hundreds of thousands of crores of money and you will have complete control over it, and you cannot be questioned; you collect money from public and hold it as a Trust for the promotion of the game of cricket but still you say we cannot go into the aspect as to who manages it, or to whom you allocate money. (The) BCCI is refusing to be reformed or it is not amenable to reform, while discharging a public function.”
Venugopal said the money collected is from broadcasters for telecast rights and not from the public, and as the BCCI was registered under the Societies Act it was answerable to the Registrar of Societies if there was any complaint or allegation of misuse of funds or misfeasance, but that there had not been a single such complaint. He also said the right to form an association was a fundamental right and could not be interfered with by the court.
Further, he said the Lodha Committee’s recommendation of ‘one state one vote’ cannot be implemented and pointed out that the court cannot go into the functions of an association as it is covered under the doctrine of indoor management. Who can vote, who can be disqualified and who can administer are functions on which the court cannot interfere, said Venugopal.
Claiming the BCCI had absolute autonomy, he quoted a five-judge Constitution bench ruling to drive home the point that the court can interfere only to the extent of the Board discharging public functions. But who should be a member or who should not, the qualification criteria, the right to vote or to exclude somebody from voting had nothing to do with functions of the board. Venugopal also pointed out that appointing the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) as a member of the Board was not practical as the appointment of a government officer is in violation to ICC guidelines and could lead to the BCCI being derecognised.
The CJI asked the counsel “Is (the) BCCI arguing that we might collect crores of money, but we can’t be questioned as to how we spend it?” Shall we record your statement that we will collect fabulous money but we cannot be questioned. You will give 100 crore rupees to Goa or Gujarat and none to Bihar but still you cannot be questioned. When there is match fixing allegations in IPL, we appointed this committee, which has not taken away your money. After all what the panel has said is to ensure transparency and (to be) free from allegations you appoint a CAG as member. The recommendations are an effort towards reform. Shall we take it that your stand is we (the BCCI) are not amenable to any reform?”
Venugopal pointed out that whatever suggestions would ensure the better functioning of the BCCI had been implemented or were in the process of being implemented. He also said the Board would manage its own affairs and may even ask management experts to do so, but did not want any court interference.
Senior counsel Ashok Desai, appearing for the Punjab Cricket Association, endorsed Venugopal’s submissions and said the court cannot impose the ‘one state one vote’ policy or the policy of an age limit of 70 years for office bearers, as the implementation of these would split the associations and some would lose full membership.
When the CJI asked if there was an upper age limit for players, it was pointed out that in England some cricketers had played until age of 42. The CJI then asked what Sachin Tendulkar’s age was when he retired, and was told that he was around 40 years at that time. To this the CJI quipped that even though a cricketer with Bharat Ratna had retired, he still had another 30 years to contribute to the game.
Arguments will continue on April 11.