The Supreme Court (SC) special bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur and Justice FMI Kalifulla, on Friday, virtually rejected the contention of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that the judiciary had no power to change the way the board was managing this game.
Hearing BCCI’s concluding arguments, the Court asked the senior counsel KK Venugopal “isn’t it like suggesting that we will make money through various sources but will not be answerable to anyone?”
BCCI has, in fact, opposed most of the reforms suggested by the Justice RM Lodha panel appointed by the SC in the wake of allegations of spot-fixing in Indian Premier League. The BCCI, in a way, was trying to remind the apex court that since it has been registered under the Registrar of Societies Act and as such action could be taken against it only under this law and not at the instance of any PIL petitioner, pleaded the senior counsel.
The BCCI maintained that the revenue was primarily from telecast rights and advertisements, not from public. Since it was registered under the Society’s Act, it was answerable only to the Registrar of Societies.
Hearing this, the special bench pointed out that the BCCI was earning thousands of crores of rupees and discharging a public function and as such was accountable to the public and amenable to judicial interference. “You are a trust meant for promoting the game in public interest and in that case how do you say we cannot go into how the game is managed and funds are allocated?” Chief Justice Thakur asked.
When BCCI continued to plead that the judiciary had no role in the functioning of any association on aspects such as who could vote and administer, and who could be disqualified, the special bench lost its cool. “Shall we record your statement that you will collect fabulous money but you cannot be questioned? You will give Rs 100 crore to Goa or Gujarat and none to Bihar, but still we cannot question you. Shall we take it that your stand is you are not amenable to any reform?” To this, the BCCI counsel kept silent.
Venugopal said the board would manage its own affairs by engaging experts and did not want the court’s interference. Anyway, BCCI did try and convince the court that it has implemented many of the SC panel’s reform recommendations like appointment of Ombudsman.
However, BCCI tried to hide the reality that Ombudsman has only been looking into ‘conflict of interest’ issues and not has powers that Justice Lodha has talked about in his recommendations.
It was when Punjab Cricket Association’s senior counsel Ashok Desai, too, supported BCCI’s contentions on allowing government officials and ministers to be part of BCCI that the court questioned the logic. “Earlier, you said CAG audit would result in BCCI’s disqualification by the International Cricket Council (ICC). In that case, how could ICC allow ministers to run the cricket administration?” Again, no answer came from senior counsels.
BCCI has earlier specified that it was against suggestions like one-state, one-vote, restrictions on the age and tenure of BCCI office bearers, exclusion of ministers and government servants in cricket administration.
The next hearing is on April 11.