The presence of the Attorney General, Mukul Rohatgi, in the Supreme Court during Friday’s hearing of the BCCI case linked to the Lodha Committee report came as a surprise.
It marked the central government’s involvement for the first time in a court battle which began in 2013. Rohatgi gave a fresh twist to the issue when he suggested that the apex court withdraw the Lodha recommendations.
Railways, Services and Universities were stripped of voting rights by the Lodha panel, and Rohatgi appeared for the ministry of Railways, armed forces and the Association of Universities.
After the hearing, where the court fixed January 24 for naming administrators to the revamped BCCI, Rohatgi explained his presence in the courtroom.
Q: Can the Attorney General represent bodies like railways?
A: The railway and defence ministries are part of Government of India.
Q: Why is the AG suddenly appearing for these organisations ?
A: It was not generally for the Government of India, it was essentially the railways ministry, the tri-services of the armed forces and the Association of Indian Universities. All these bodies are the constituents of the BCCI. They have a say in the affairs of BCCI and they continue to do so over the last 50 years. These bodies promote cricket, they have academies, they give jobs to cricketers and they have stadiums. In one of the orders passed by the court in the BCCI case, these three organisations have been downgraded, their full membership has been taken away and their invaluable vote in the affairs of the BCCI has been taken away.
In the court, I made submissions that our vote cannot be taken away, and neither can our status be downgraded. I also made it clear to the court that I have no love for the BCCI, I mean my clients. We are only concerned with the restoration of these two items the two bodies and the association of universities want.
Q: Elaborate on the nine-year period confusion cleared by the SC.
A: There is this limit of nine years (for office-bearers) in the BCCI and state units. That means you can be in power for nine years in that particular association. When the order was passed, it was felt a total of nine years (for both BCCI and state units). (It means) If someone has completed 5 years in the state and four years in BCCI, then nine years are over. Actually, the intention was nine years in state and nine years in BCCI; that means it can be 18 years. That has been clarified by the court.
Q: Your argument that, under the Article 19.1 c, the main judgement is not correct. Does it mean you are questioning the legality of the entire judgement?
A: You must understand that my immediate concern is for three of my clients. In the course of legal submissions if I have to say that a particular judgement is wrong or my client wants to project that a particular order is wrong then I am entitled to say that, whether it applies to the whole judgement or part of it, a latter judgement or an earlier judgement.
Q: The July 18 order curtailed the powers of your clients and made them associate member. But you didn’t approach the court before.
A: As far as the Association of Universities is concerned, the court didn’t sent a notice to them; actually notices have not be sent to others whose rights have been taken away. This six months’ difference is not a mountain that can’t be crossed. If a mistake has been made by the court or anybody else, there is a process to correct it. Supreme Court is the final court, and it has all the rights. If it feels it has been wrong, it can be corrected in any proceeding. That is what we have requested the court with all politeness.
Q: There is concern over the reluctance to accept the Supreme Court ruling in some cases. Can you elaborate with regard to BCCI?
A: The judgement of the court must be respected, whether you like it or not, whether a group likes it or not, or a large body of people like it or not. There are ways and means of correcting or requesting the court to correct a judgement and that route has to be followed. You can make a plea back to the court, you can ask for a reference to a larger bench, you can ask the legislative tool - the state assembly or parliament - to enact a law to remove the basis of the judgement.
These are very recognised tools to tell a court that a mistake may have been made. As long as a judgement stands, you may criticise it but you have no right to flout it. That right is not available in the constitution. There is no question of flouting because if you start flouting a norm then there will be anarchy.
Q: Have you asked for a larger bench?
A: I have told the court that the bigger order has been made by a two-judge bench, Today, there is a three-judge bench. And it is a norm that a three-judge bench can revise or remove the order of a two-judge bench. And if there is a matter related to constitution like the right of association or forming an association, it goes to a constitution bench. But for that there needs to be a debate. It has started today, the debate will go on.