Cricket board plays hide and seek with Lodha Panel (Column: Just Sport)
Soon, the Indian cricket board might cry before the Supreme Court in a filmi style that "tareekh pe tareekh, tareekh pe tareekh, tareekh pe tareekh milti gayi My Lord, per insaaf nahi mila! -- got date after date, date after date, date after date, My Lord, but no justice.
The Supreme Court is unwilling to show any mercy on the board after it tried to defy it by dilly-dallying in implementing the recommendations of its appointed Rajendra Mal Lodha Committee.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur, in a surprise move, gave the order without any notice of putting in the court's cause list. The idea is to clearly choke the board and its affiliaes of any money from their banks till they fall in line.
The Lodha Committee will now fix a ceiling for contracts the BCCI can enter into and anything beyond that limit would require its approval. The committee will also appoint an independent auditor to scrutinise the BCCI accounts and fix the financial limits for contracts.
The court ordered board president and secretary to file compliance reports before the Committee and the Supreme Court in two weeks. The time is clearly running out for the board, but it still has some other avenues to prolong the litigation.
This is one way of telling the two senior board officials to go to the committee and sort oout if they have any problems in implementing any of the recommendations.
It's bizarre, Supreme Court keeps threatening that board that it should fall in line and implement the reforms recommended by the Lodha Committee to make its style of governance transparent. After each date of hearing, the apex court keeps squeezing the board financially.
The court has thus taken notice of the board's move to open the bids for media rights of the Indian Premier League (IPL) for a 10-year period from 2018 and said it cannot fix on its own the property's worth without the consent of the Lodha Committee.
Last time the IPL media rights went for some $1.6 billion and this time it is likely to go for anwhere between $four billion to $five billion. Will the Lodha Committee clear the figure? Simple, it will allow, provided the board accepts its recommendations.
In other words, the court has made Justice Lodha the pointsman to run the board till the cricket administrators "fall in line" and force its affiliates also to do the same.
Just as it said in the last two hearings, the court yet again asked the board not to disburse any money to the state associations unless they comply with the recommendations and pass resolutions of agreement.
The two officials could have done that on August 9 when they were to meet the committee, but on the advice of another former Supreme Court judge Markendey Katju they did not take the meeting seriously. Shirkey went and he was told that the board should only carry out routine business at the Annual General Meeting. Instead, the board went ahead with a gamut of decisions including the appointment of five selectors from the five zones when the Lodha Committee recommendation is for three selectors.
The court kept telling the board that it will come down hard on the board and the Lodha Committee even recommended appointment of administrators, sacking the top brass of the board. But it kept giving the board a long rope.
One question being asked on social media is why pick on the cricket board when even Justice Lodha agrees that it is still the best administered comparable with any sports body anywhere in the world for sheer amount of work it does in organising the sport for all age groups. The number of match days in a season is mind-boggling.
Some said the publicity the case has generated for everyone involved. Would a committee have gone into any other federation, some of them were suspended by their international federations. The court as well as the Lodha Committee have realised the board has so much of clout only because of its money.
The court has also given a way out of sorts to the board by asking it to file an affidavit stating how much time it will need to implement the recommendations. Will the court agree to a date somewhere in February-March or even by the next AGM in September by which time the the present Chief Justice would have retired in January? The court need not agree to it.
Though the next hearing is on December 5, the board would like to drag submission of a curative petition after Justice Thakur is retired in January, hoping a new bench might be more receptive to some of its grievances.
As its is five judges have heard the case so far, starting with Justice Thakur and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Chief Ibrahim Kalifulla. On kalifulla's retirement in July, it became a three-judge with Justice Justice Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar and Justice Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud coming in.
On Friday, another Judge Lavu Nageswara Rao, who became a judge of the apex court in May, was there on Friday when Chandrachud delivered the order.
Before becoming the Supreme Court judge, Rao was also member of the Supreme Court-appointed Mudgal Committee, headed by Justice Mukul Mudgal, along with senior advocate and former cricket umpire Nilay Dutta as the other member.
As Justice Lodha said the Supreme Court has done its best to have the board implement the reforms suggested by his committee, but it has also realised that is not easy to deal with so many stakeholders with a judgment in one stroke.
The board officials must sit with the Lodha Committee and sort out the serious issues affecting its administrative structure instead of standing on prestige.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at email@example.com)