The Supreme Court on Thursday pulled up the Board of Control for Cricket in India for its reluctance to comply with the recommendations of the Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha panel, including the one to keep politicians away from cricket administration, observing politicians wanted to hold such posts for 'power and clout'.
The apex court also took umbrage against some state cricket associations, which sought a fresh hearing before the Lodha panel, saying these bodies cannot be allowed to 'filibuster' or delay implementation of the recommendations of the panel which was an 'expensive committee' and had grabbed 'international headlines'.
"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 fence for a written invitation?," the bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice FMI Kalifulla said.
"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 cost a lot of money for BCCI. It is not an easy committee. It was an expensive committee," the bench said.
When senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for BCCI, raised objections to the committee's recommendation for keeping politicians away, the bench asked, "Why do you want the ministers to be there?".
When Venugopal gave the example of former Union minister late N K P Salve, who was a prominent cricket administrator, contending that it lends 'leadership and experience' to the cricket body, the bench said, "You want to make it as a precedent."
Referring to his submissions made just before this when BCCI objected to the inclusion of a nominee of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in the cricket's administrative body, the bench said, "You do not want the nominee of the CAG, but you want politicians".
"You want ministers and government officers to be involved. You say that they have contributed to the game. The country is endowed with people of talent that we cannot deprive you of capable and honest people who want to contribute," the bench said.
The bench added, "The feeling is that politicians may want to hold the post for power and clout. It is the source of aggrandisement, that is why this recommendation has been made (to keep politicians away)."
The bench again asked Venugopal, "Why you want that the minister must be there?"
When Venugopal kept mum, the bench said, "We understand, your silence is very eloquent".
The court also questioned as to why one person simultaneously held office in the state as well as the BCCI.
When the BCCI objected to the recommendation for an age cap of 70 years for cricket administrators, the court said it is quite understandable that lawyers can get better with age.
"Lawyers like you (Venugopal) get better with age, is that so with cricketers too? I don't know. We feel 70 is a good age for retirement. At 70, they should sit at home and watch cricket on TV," the court said.
"You are saying that BCCI is deprived of better administration, but there is a limitation as to how much pressure a person is capable of handling," the bench said, adding that being in cricket administration is an active assignment and bringing former players to administration is one way of recognising talent.
It also referred to the poor health of late Jagmohan Dalmiya when he was heading the BCCI. The bench said before his demise at the age of 75 years he was unable to depose properly before the Lodha panel.
After two hours of the hearing, the bench permitted BCCI to make its stand clear by way of an affidavit after Venugopal said, "We are not going against the committee, but saying there is a need of meeting of minds of players, administration and general public."
At the fag end of the day's hearing, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for Baroda Cricket Association and some other associations, objected to one of the recommendations of the panel that there should be one state, one vote policy.
Sibal said it cannot be strictly adhered to as states like Gujarat and Maharashtra have three and four bodies for cricket administration respectively and their history preceded the coming into existence of these states.
The apex court had on February 4 given a stern message to the BCCI asking it to 'fall in line' with the recommendations of Justice Lodha Committee.
It had said that the recommendations are 'straight, rational and understandable' and 'deserve respect'. It had said, "There is no reason to disagree with the committee" which has the most "illuminated and respected members of the legal community" and granted four weeks time to the BCCI to come up with its response to the implementation of the recommendations.
The bench, which was hearing the plea filed by Aditya Verma, Secretary of Cricket Association of Bihar, on whose petition Narayanswami Srinivasan was asked by the apex court to step aside as the BCCI President for conflict of interest, posted the matter for further hearing on March 18.
The apex court-appointed Lodha Committee had on January 4 recommended sweeping reforms and an administrative shake-up at the troubled BCCI, suggesting that ministers be barred from occupying positions, a cap put on the age and tenure of the office-bearers and legalisation of betting.
In a series of drastic recommendations, the three-member panel, also comprising former apex court judges -- Ashok Bhan and R V Raveendran -- had suggested that one unit should represent only one state, while taking away the voting rights of institutional and city-based units.
It suggested restructuring of the BCCI's administrative set-up and proposed a CEO to run daily affairs of the Board who will be accountable to a nine-member apex council.
Among the most sensational suggestions of the Lodha panel was the one on legalising betting. It felt that the move would help curb corruption in the game and recommended that except for players and officials, people should be allowed to place bets on registered websites.
Among other steps, panel said that to ensure transparency in the BCCI's functioning, it was important to bring the body under the purview of the RTI Act, something that the Board has vehemently opposed in the past citing autonomy.
The Lodha Committee also recommended having other sports in cricket stadiums during off-season, which the BCCI feels is practically not feasible.
Finally, the most important point is about 'having advertisement breaks only during lunch or tea in international matches' which will lead to the BCCI losing approximately Rs 1500 crore in revenue.