Had the Supreme Court versus BCCI encounter been billed as a chess game, the intricate moves by both sides would have by now drawn gasps of admiration from all those who thrive on suspense and love nothing better than unpredictability and uncertainty.
It has been almost five months now since the SC passed its final order, directing the BCCI to implement the Lodha panel recommendations in toto. But the cricket board has resorted to all sorts of subterfuge to stay defiant and in each court hearing, has literally mocked at the court judgment by stalling its implementation. For an objective observer, this battle of wits, where the judges reprimand the board without getting any positive response, is turning out to be a tiresome duel where the all powerful court’s relentless attacks and pressure is having no effect on the Board.
The Board’s office-bearers so far has been successful in saving its citadel despite, seemingly, all its escape routes having been cut from its very roots. Had this been a chess game, one would have applauded the Board’s resilience and gumption to have survived so far, despite having lost the battle a long time back.
Unfortunately, this battle is not a fight between two minds exploring each other’s weaknesses while making moves to strengthen its fortress. At stake are the much-needed administrative reforms and an accountable, transparent functioning of a sports body.
What we are witnessing is something unprecedented: a sports body, run under the registrar of societies act, like thousands in the country, telling the chief justice of the Supreme Court that though I respect your authority and the right to pass a judgment, I am sorry, I can’t implement your order.
The court, in turn, keeps reminding the culprit that it has the power to punish them if they keep on defying their writ. It is a threat that has had no effect on the Board. The greater the reprimand from the courts, the bolder the Board gets. It keeps breaking all the deadlines set by the court and ignores all the diktats of the Lodha panel, not even bothering to give excuses which may sound logical, at least on paper.
The Board has called the chief justice of India biased. It has allowed a former judge to use its platform to rubbish the integrity of the judges, committed what most experts believe is contempt of court and its lawyers have in as many words told the court, “You may have the right to give the orders, but don’t expect us to implement them.”
It is a bizarre drama that is testing the patience of the judiciary to the hilt. The three-member SC bench, headed by the chief justice himself may have their reasons to give the Board a long rope. It, perhaps, does not want to appoint an administrator to oversee the implementation of its orders, which it might fear would be construed as overtaking the Board.
It is for this reason that the court has gone back to the Lodha panel, to once again coerce the Board to “fall in line.” The Board so far has refused to oblige, telling the panel that they are helpless in the wake of “resistance” from its state associations. It obviously does not fear any reprisal, howsoever drastic it may finally be.
Whether the patience of the court is running thin or not, one can’t say for sure. All one can say is that this defiance of the judiciary is sowing the seeds of a dangerous precedent. Therefore a quick and final closure to this battle is needed. The judiciary cannot afford to be seen as becoming a helpless spectator to the machinations of the Board.