Lodha Panel Recommendations Cannot Be Frustrated, Says SC

The Supreme Court has made it clear to the BCCI that the recommendations of the Justice Lodha committee cannot be frustrated by raising serious objections.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday made it clear to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that the recommendations of the Justice Lodha committee to ensure reforms in the administration of cricket in the country cannot be frustrated by raising serious objections.

A bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) T.S. Thakur and Justice Ibrahim Kalifulla is hearing a batch of petitions from the BCCI and state cricket associations opposing the implementation of Lodha panel report.

The CJI told the counsel for the petitioning parties that the recommendations are aimed at ensuring transparency, objectivity and accountability, which cannot be stifled or frustrated by the Board or any other person. He said the ‘one state one vote principle’ is in no way violative of Article 19(1)(c), which guarantees every citizen a fundamental right to form an association.

The CJI told senior counsel Shyam Divan, appearing for Cricket Club of India (CCI), that the protection under Article 19(1)(c) is available only to an individual citizen and not to any organisation or club. He asked “What was the purpose of the recommendations. Clearly the committee wanted more transparency, objectivity. Make it more responsive to the needs. If there is a structure that is more responsive, why should that structure be challenged or should be obstructed.”

The CJI observed, “The purpose was to achieve a very laudable objective to make the BCCI more responsible, transparent and accountable.. Provide confidence and credibility. It cannot be stifled or frustrated. All your actions must inspire confidence.”

Divan submitted that CCI, a founding members of the BCCI and owner of the Brabourne Stadium (one of the oldest in the country), cannot be deprived of voting rights by the Lodha panel. He told the court “Please don’t pass any order that affect my (CCI’s) status within BCCI. It should not diminish my (CCI’s) status. No order ought to be passed.”

The CJI quipped, “(The) committee is not interfering with your cricketing rights. Nobody says you should have some members in your club not acceptable to you since you are relying on Article 19(1)(c). You are a club not a citizen. If you are not a citizen then your argument  is not valid. It may violate some other principles of law but not any fundamental right. You also have a restaurant, gym and bar. It is not just cricket. Do you have a team? Does it play Ranji Trophy? Apart from using the ground for cricket have you been using it for other purposes? The recommendations are not interfering with your cricketing right. Your full membership in BCCI  may not be available to you.”

Divan argued that the committee’s recommendations was meant to address the problems of certain irregularities and conflict of interests. Though some of its recommendations are good, it cannot go beyond the nexus for which the committee was originally conceived, he said. The recommendations cannot be made mandatory.

The CJI asked the counsel, “Apart from your right to vote being taken away, you continue to be associated with the BCCI. Tell us why you are not receiving funds from the BCCI if you are promoting cricket.” When Divan argued that CCI was a self-financing club and was not dependent on the BCCI for funds, the CJI asked him to furnish the club’s balance sheet for the past five years to see how much it had spent on cricket and other activities. “Very rarely do you find a person who says I want to promote cricket, but I don’t want your support,” said the CJI.

Counsel for Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) submitted that the MCA was not opposed to the committee’s recommendation that all states must have a vote, but depriving some existing members of their voting rights was not acceptable. Maharashtra has four votes in the BCCI (Mumbai Cricket Association, CCI, Vidharbha Cricket Association and Maharashtra Cricket Association), while several north eastern states like Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Sikkim do not have any vote.