The Supreme Court on Thursday unequivocally told the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) to implement the Justice RM Lodha committee recommendations for drastic structural changes in the richest cricket body to ensure transparency in its functioning, saying it won’t get a “second inning” to defend itself.
“The best thing is to fall in line and follow the suggestions to save the trouble. We have seen the report. All the members have been heard, their views have been taken. Now you have to take a realistic view of the matter and do according to the recommendations,” a special bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur told the BCCI counsel.
“We can’t start a fresh process of debate. There is no second innings for you,” the bench, also comprising justice FMI Kalifulla told BCCI counsel Shekhar Naphade during hearing of the Cricket Association of Bihar’s plea seeking a direction to the board to implement the Lodha panel report.
The court gave the BCCI time till March 3 – the next date of hearing -- to explain how it intended to implement the recommendations.
On January 4, the Lodha panel had recommended drastic measures including legalising betting in cricket and bringing the all-powerful BCCI under purview of the RTI Act, besides prescribing a three-year cooling off period for the president and other office-bearers before contesting polls.
Naphade wanted time to give the BCCI’s official response on the Lodha report. But the bench was not impressed. “Tell your client (BCCI) that you can’t jump the gun. The report deserves respect as it has been done by the most competent and well meaning members of the legal fraternity,” Justice Thakur told the BCCI counsel.
It warned the cricket body, which complained of several technical problems in implementing the recommendations, that Justice Lodha panel could take over and steer reforms in the board.
“We have an easy and simple solution to your problem. We will accept the report and ask the panel to continue and help you implement the recommendations. This is not a second inning. There is no complication in the report, which is straight and rational. We have no reasons to disagree with the recommendations unless any inherent anomaly is pointed out,” the bench said.
The comments came after Naphade pointed out the board would have to first de-register itself as a society and then accept the suggestions.
“Decks must be cleared for a complete reform. If you have any difficulty we will ask the committee to steer the BCCI. It will advise you how to go about and where to de-register yourself and then register,” it said.
Naphade clarified he was not taking an obstructionist stand. “I know the writing on the wall is very clear,” he admitted. However, he continued, the board’s legal committee had agreed to meet on February 7 to discuss the report. “We need to consult 30 members. Once the legal committee gives its viewpoint, the board would take a final call and come back (to the court).” Naphade asked the court to give him a month to revert.
Unimpressed, the bench said the report had definitely hurt the interest of those in power. “Any transition has to have its problems. Today you have five vice-presidents. Tomorrow after the recommendations are given effect, there would be just one. We understand where it hurts,” said Justice Thakur.
The court accepted the Lodha panel exonerating Sundar Raman, former chief operating officer (COO) of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Senior advocate Indu Malhotra, appearing for the Cricket Association of Bihar on whose petition the Supreme Court has been monitoring the cleaning-up process of Indian cricket, said there was no objection to the clean chit. Malhotra, however, insisted the BCCI must be directed to implement the recommendations immediately as the IPL player auction would commence shortly.