BCCI faced scathing criticism for maintaining that any judicial interference in its functioning would compromise its autonomy, with the Supreme Court saying the cash-rich sports body was resisting recommendations to reform and make its working “transparent and visible”.
The apex court also expressed its displeasure over BCCI’s stand that being a private and autonomous body, it cannot accommodate a nominee of CAG in it as suggested by the Justice R M Lodha Panel on the ground that it would be derecognised from the International Cricket Council (ICC).
“You are discharging public function… how best your functioning can be improved? It has to be transparent and visible .. the way you are doing (discharging your function) and how you are doing,” a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice F M I Kalifulla said.
Taking note of the submission made by BCCI counsel and senior advocate K K Venugopal, the bench said “what we understand is that you are suggesting that I am answerable to Registrar of Societies. I will be accountable only to Registrar of the society. I will be amenable to criminal law but I will not reform. Don’t ask me to reform. Is it possible?
“What have you done? We have seen the allegations of match-fixing and betting. You have no control over these. But you give money in crores. The Lodha committeehas said something. It has been said to make the functioning more transparent and visible and the effort is to reform the BCCI.”
“You are dealing with hundreds of crores of rupees. Do you say that you have complete immunity over it and you can’t be questioned? Do you say that you can’t be questioned how you spend hundreds of crores of rupees if not thousands that you collect from the public. Can we record that statement,” the bench observed.
Venugopal replied in affirmative to the bench’s suggestion that collection of funds by selling tickets and through advertisements, BCCI has total control over it and it cannot be questioned.
The bench said it was going into the issue but made it clear that it was not comparing BCCI with other sporting associations like wrestling, table tennis or kho-kho.
The senior advocate also replied in affirmative that the funds coming from the broadcasters through advertisements cannot be questioned by the court.
The bench was also not happy with the apprehension expressed by BCCI that presence of the government nominee or that of CAG will violate ICC rules and attract derecognition.
“How the presence of government nominee or CAG would violate ICC rules and attract derecognition? You are opposing the nominee of the CAG on the board as it would make you vulnerable to derecognition, but you are all advocating involvement of ministers and bureaucrats. Does it not create government influence or presence,” the bench asked.
The bench said the public money that BCCI was holding as Trust was for the promotion of the game of cricket.
“The money that you have is in your trust. Are you not accountable to the beneficiaries? This money is in trust with you for whose benefit. It is for the benefit of the people who watch matches. Are you not accountable to them?”
BCCI said instead of following all the recommendations, “let us see whether there is another way” the Board can be reformed.
“We are now going to appoint a consultant for better management of our affairs,” Venugopal said, stressing that any attempt by the court to interfere would violate Article 19(1) (C) on fundamental right to form associations.
He reiterated BCCI’s position that they would account for their actions before the statutory authorities and said the board was implementing the Lodha Committee recommendations, but would not accept some of them, in respect of which the cricket body was protected by Article 19(1)(c).
The BCCI is averse to the Lodha Committee recommendations which puts a ceiling of maximum of two terms for office-bearers, one state-one vote, presence of CAG representative on the BCCI board and fixing 65 years as upper age limit of office bearers.
Senior advocate Ashok Desai, appearing for the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA), told the court that there could not be uniform rules for all cricket associations and neither a cap on age limit of office bearers.
While the Lodha Committee has recommended an age limit of 65 years, the PCA has an upper age limit of 70 years.
At this, the bench asked,”should there be an upper age limit at all? What is the age at which players retire?”
When the court was getting different type of answers, it asked at what age did Sachin Tendulkar retire.
“The Bharat Ratna retired at the age of 40,” the court said.
During the hearing, Venugopal complained that the press was giving a one-sided story on the development.
However, after he concluded his argument, the bench said “don’t think that everything is negative in BCCI.”
“You address a press conference and tell them you are not writing the things properly. We are not addressing press conference,” the bench said.