The Supreme Court made it clear on Thursday that the BCCI could not “prolong or filibuster” the Lodha panel’s recommendations to change the cricket board’s functioning, including bringing it under the right to information law and making it accountable to the Comptroller and Auditor General.
A bench headed by chief justice TS Thakur also directed the board to furnish details of funds it released to state cricket bodies in the past five years and asked it to explain whether there was any mechanism to monitor their expenditure.
“This is the easiest way to prolong and filibuster it (implementation of the recommendations). All of you (state cricket bodies and the BCCI) knew of the hearing before the panel and none of you approached it. But, you all have come here now with your grievances,” the bench told the BCCI counsel and lawyers of various state associations who moved court with their objections to the panel’s recommendations. The bodies have requested the top court to refer the matter back to justice RM Lodha for a review.
Not giving a firm opinion on the plea, the court simply remarked, “It’s an expensive panel. The exercise has cost the BCCI a lot of money.” The bench, also comprising justice FMI Kalifullah, however, added that either the court would examine the issues completely or ask justice Lodha to have a re-look at selective points. The court will continue the hearing on March 18.
As it began hearing the BCCI’s counsel, the court found it strange for the board to bat for ministers and bureaucrats holding posts in the cricket body – a practice the Lodha panel has advised to stop – but oppose the inclusion of a CAG official on the grounds that it could lose its ICC membership for government interference.
“You want the minister to be in the board but no CAG official. Won’t a minister or bureaucrat’s presence make you lose ICC membership? We know NKP Salve was the president of the board. But, that doesn’t mean it should become a practice,” the bench said.
The bench asked the board uncomfortable questions on release of funds. BCCI counsel KK Venugopal argued it was not possible to reduce advertisements during telecast of matches as that was a source of income the board needed to fund state bodies.
Venugopal informed the court that in 2015, the BCCI earmarked Rs 480 crore for each of its affiliated state boards. But, he had no reply to the bench’s query if the board monitored the expenses incurred by state bodies.
“Or is this your way of getting votes? You give money to a state body and do not ask for the accounts. That is the finding of the committee (the Lodha panel),” the CJI said.
Venugopal argued the money was spent mostly on infrastructure and cricketing activities, prompting the court to seek the amount spent by the BCCI during the past five years for development of the game in smaller states such as Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Assam.
The top court remained unconvinced with the BCCI’s plea to let people above 70 years of age hold posts in the board. “People at 70 should sit at home and watch the game,” Justice Thakur said.