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SC takes exception to BCCI's views on Lodha report
Friday 04 March 2016

The Indian Supreme Court has told the BCCI that it might be inclined to send a few of the recommendations proposed by the Lodha committee back to the three-member panel for review. The two-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice Ibrahim Kalifullah, did not, specify, however, which recommendations it could ask the committee to review.

The court made this observation on Thursday afternoon after hearing the arguments presented by BCCI counsel, KK Venugopal, who said that majority of the recommendations made by the Lodha committee ought to be reconsidered. The court set March 18 as the next date of hearing and has asked the BCCI and state associations to submit audited accounts of the expenses over the past five years through separate affidavits.

The BCCI had expressed its reservations about the recommendations of the report. In an exhaustive affidavit, a copy of which was accessed by ESPNcricinfo, the BCCI listed it was against the following major recommendations proposed by the Lodha committee: one state one vote; drastic reduction on advertisements; inclusion of Comptroller & Auditor General of India's nominee on managing committee and apex council; representatives of two franchises on the IPL governing council; prohibition on re-appointment for members of managing committee and cooling-off period; prohibition on association of ministers/government servants/persons holding posts in another sports body in honorary capacity; restriction of simultaneously holding office in a state association and the BCCI; age cap of 70 years for an office bearer; formation of players' association funded by the BCCI; doing away with existing BCCI committees; bringing the board under the Right To Information Act; and legalising betting.

BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur, who signed the affidavit, said that although the Lodha panel had sent the board office bearers an exhaustive questionnaire, it had not consulted the top brass while finalising the recommendations. "During my interaction with the Lodha committee, the committee did not seek my views on the proposed recommendations which ultimately find place in the [Lodha] report," Thakur wrote.

Chief Justice Thakur, however, was unimpressed by that statement. "It was international news that we had formed the Justice Lodha committee to suggest reforms in cricket. The whole world knew it. Now you come to us and say the recommendations were a bolt from the blue for you and you were not consulted... What were you doing? Waiting at the fence for a written invitation?" the Chief Justice told the BCCI's legal counsel, according to the Hindu.

On the one-state-one-vote recommendation, the BCCI feared that some states could easily "abuse" their vote, which would encourage corruption. "For instance, the one-country-one-vote system followed by FIFA has resulted in the 2015 FIFA corruption scandal where countries where there is little or no football activity were allegedly bribed by FIFA officials to vote in a particular manner." To this the bench said: "If this is the first scandal in 50 or 100 years, it is hardly a test on the workability of the policy."

When Venugopal argued that it would disrupt the voting process practised for decades by the BCCI, the court suggested that the state associations should vote by rotation.

The BCCI also argued strongly against the presence of a nominee from the CAG's office on the proposed apex council, saying it was "contrary to law", since the BCCI constitution does not allow a non-member to sit on the managing committee of the society.

Venugopal also said that the ICC rules did not allow government representatives to be part of the Full Member boards and the global body may take the appointment of a CAG representative as government interference and, hence, derecognise the BCCI.

The BCCI counsel said the board would accept a CAG nominee in an advisory role without any voting rights. The court, however, did not relent. "You don't even want the CAG nominee on the outside as your conscience keeper?" Chief Justice Thakur said. "Suppose we ask you to put this nominee on the board, you fear that the ICC will disenfranchise you for complying with an order of the Supreme Court of India to have a person who gives you good advice... surely you don't grudge good advice, do you?"

The BCCI also disagreed with the recommendation to restrict advertisements during a match telecast to drinks and session breaks, instead of advertisements between overs and at the fall of the wicket. The BCCI said such a move would "cripple" its income as the broadcasters would pay a "fraction" of the sum being paid for ODIs while paying nothing for a Test match.

According to Anurag Thakur, Star India, the host broadcaster, had apparently sent an e-mail to the BCCI on February 21, seeking "renegotiation of the amounts currently payable by them under the existing contract if advertisements are restricted as recommended."

When Venugopal read out figures accrued as profits from broadcasting revenues that were later disbursed to state associations, the court asked the BCCI and the state associations to file individual accounts for the past five years. "The prominent spirit should be viewer enjoyment. Do you mean that your commerce should overtake the enjoyment of the game?" Chief Justice Thakur asked.

In addition to the BCCI, various state units - Mumbai Cricket Association, Maharashtra Cricket Association, Tamil Nadu Cricket Association, Baroda Cricket Association - filed their individual presentations objecting to the Lodha committee report.

When prominent lawyer Kapil Sibal, representing the Baroda association, said that his client would want approach the Lodha committee directly to suggest "certain amendments", Chief Justice Thakur brushed the suggestion aside.

"There is no question of you wanting it. We, the Supreme Court, will decide whether we are inclined to send some restricted issues back to the committee for its decision, that too within a limited span of time... Lodha Committee costs a lot of money for BCCI. It is not an easy committee," the Chief Justice said.

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