The top brass of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is finally paying for their recalcitrance to judicial orders. Cracking the whip, the Supreme Court on Monday sacked president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke and decided to initiate contempt proceedings against Thakur for obstructing and impeding implementation of the court’s July 18 directions aimed at reforming the board.
A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said that working of BCCI will be looked after by a committee of administrators (CoA) and requested senior advocate Fali S Nariman and Gopal Subramaniam, who was assisting in the matter as amicus curiae, to assist the court in nominating persons of impeccable integrity as CoA members.
Asking Thakur and Shirke to “forthwith cease and desist from” the board’s work, the apex court said that Thakur’s “own version is that he has been “rendered totally incapable and without any authority” to compel the members to comply with the orders of the court.
This, the bench said, is “indicative of his having washed his hands of a duty and obligation to ensure compliance”. “…prima facie we are of the view that Thakur has made statements on affidavit before this court which are false to his knowledge,” the court said.
The bench, also comprising justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, said that Nariman and Subramanian will complete the task in two weeks and the matter for passing the direction for nominating the persons in committee of administrators will be taken up on January 19. It clarified that till the new administrators take over the working of BCCI, the senior-most vice-president of the board will act as the president and the present joint secretary will assume the work as secretary.
The apex court directed that all office bearers of the BCCI and state associations will have to give their undertaking that they will abide by the directions of the top court that has accepted the recommendations of the panel headed by former chief justice RM Lodha.
At its last hearing on December 16, the CJI had threatened Thakur with a jail term if he was found guilty of lying under oath in an attempt to obstruct the Lodha committee reforms. There were media reports on September 12 that quoted International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson as saying that Thakur had asked the ICC to address a letter to the BCCI, asking it to clarify whether the recommendations of the Lodha panel did not amount to government interference in the board’s running. As per ICC regulations, member boards cannot have government interference in their running. However, Thakur in an affidavit filed before the SC had denied having asked the ICC for any such letter.
“Upon the CoAs as nominated by this court assuming charge, the existing office bearers shall function subject to the supervision and control of the CoAs, which would have the power to issue all appropriate directions to facilitate due supervision and control,” the court said. It warned that office bearers of BCCI or state associations who “fails to meet” the norms recommended by the Lodha panel “shall demit the post and cease to be office bearers”.
As per the key recommendations of the Lodha panel, which has been accepted by the apex court, no person above 70 years of age, unsound mind, minister or government servant, convicted persons and those who have held any office or post in a sports or athletic association or federation apart from cricket, has been an office bearer of the BCCI for a cumulative period of nine years can hold any position in the cricket bodies.
Monday’s order came in response to the Lodha panel’s status report that recommended that the BCCI office bearers be “superseded” and a panel of administrators be appointed because the board was not complying with the the court-approved recommendations.