With the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) declining to provide an undertaking by Friday that it would abide by all directions of the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha panel, the apex court said it would pass orders on Friday to put an end to the “defiance” of the cricket board and make sure “public money” is used transparently.
A bench led by Chief Justice TS Thakur said the BCCI’s approach was “very unfortunate” and regretted that the panel was forced to make a plea for replacing the cricket body’s management with a panel of independent administrators to facilitate reforms.
The bench decided to reserve the matter for orders on Friday after the BCCI’s counsel Kapil Sibal said it would not be possible for the board to furnish an undertaking in a day,while stating in unequivocal terms that it would comply with the Lodha panel’s recommendations.
“We will not waste our time in such matters when there are thousands of people languishing in jails only because their cases cannot be heard. You give to us an unconditional undertaking that you will abide by all directions of the Lodha committee…or we will pass orders,” the bench told Sibal.
The bench had sought a solemn statement from the BCCI that not only would it stop any further disbursement of money to state cricket associations but also that the funds already distributed shall be deposited safely in bank accounts.
At this, Sibal and senior lawyer Arvind Datar pointed out that the domestic season was already under way and state associations had their teams playing matches across the country.
“The entire season will have to stop. It was because the Lodha panel had said that domestic grounds will have to be avoided that Tamil Nadu and Mumbai are playing a Ranji match in Haryana’s Rohtak. Who pays for their travel and other expenditure? Please don’t hurt cricket. Let the game not suffer,” appealed the lawyers.
The bench was irked over the fact that BCCI had given money to the state associations despite their refusal to accept the new memorandum of associations proposed by the Lodha panel, which was set up to usher in more transparency and accountability in the game’s governance. It also took exception to Sibal’s contention that the money belonged to these associations.
“Season or no season… We don’t care about your season. Transparency and fairness must be there. Everyone needs to cooperate with the Lodha panel. You must make your stand clear first. If you yourself are acting in defiance, what’s the point… This defiant attitude won’t lead you anywhere. And it is nobody’s money. It is public money. You discharge a public function and this money must be used transparently,” the court told the BCCI.