The Supreme Court accused Indian cricket board chief Anurag Thakur on Thursday of lying and threatened to initiate perjury and contempt proceedings against him.
Thakur allegedly denied on oath that he asked for a letter from the International Cricket Council (ICC) CEO on the inclusion of a court-mandated official in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
The ICC official, Dave Richardson, has alleged that Thakur wanted a letter stating the appointment would breach the board’s autonomy and amount to government interference, inviting expulsion of the BCCI from the international council.
“Why are you trying to mislead the court? If you want to escape perjury charges, you ought to apologise. At every stage you have been trying to obstruct. Everyone wants to go around and continue to hold the post even after 70 years. This is such a lucrative business that everyone wants to go on forever,” the bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said.
SC reserved order on J Lodha panel plea to appoint GK Pillai as observer of BcCI. Order to be given either tomorrow or Jan 2 or 3 @htTweets— bhadra sinha (@BhadraSinha) December 15, 2016
The court lashed out at the BCCI for its continued opposition to the root-and-branch reforms recommended by the Justice RM Lodha committee, appointed to suggest ways to clean up the game after the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal.
Among several sweeping suggestions, the Lodha panel put age and tenure caps for cricket administrators, while the court had ordered appointment of an independent auditor to audit the board’s income and expenditure.
“Freedom of expression allows you to disagree with the order but you can’t obstruct implementation of the order. Once we pronounce the order (in perjury proceedings), you will have no other place to go except jail,” the court said, indicating it might change the board’s administrators.
The court’s order will either come on Friday or on January 2 or 3 when it reopens after the winter break. Chief Justice Thakur is to demit office on January 3.
If the court decides to initiate prosecution against Thakur for perjury, he will have to face trial before a subordinate court. Maximum punishment for perjury is seven years, while for contempt is six months.
Thakur, a BJP lawmaker from Himachal Pradesh, would stand disqualified from Parliament if he is found guilty.
Amicus Curiae to SC: Anurag Thakur lied on oath to SC,in his affidavit he said that he sought Shashank Manohar's opinion as BCCI chairman— ANI (@ANI_news) December 15, 2016
The bench said even ICC chairman Shashank Manohar has confirmed that the BCCI chief had asked for the controversial letter.
Also, the top court dismissed on Thursday a curative petition against its order on appointing the Lodha panel.
The court’s remarks against Thakur came when it was hearing the Lodha panel’s application to appoint former Union home secretary GK Pillai as an observer to monitor the board’s functioning.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal told the bench the board had strong reservations against the suggestion, but he did not want to come out with the reason in public.
The bench shot back: “If you are asking for a letter from ICC, we prima facie feel that you are in contempt and we also prima facie feel that you are liable for perjury and we are inclined to launch prosecution.”
The court sought to know what drove Thakur to ask for a letter. Sibal said his client never intended to lie and that he will apologise.
The Lodha panel’s report followed extensive consultation with stakeholders, including current and former players and journalists. And, yet the BCCI was adopting an obstructionist course, the court said.
“We thought it will be in the interests of the game, so that you can improve, otherwise what else?”