New Delhi: : The Supreme Court on Thursday dealt a body blow to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), setting the stage for the replacement of its office-bearers and prima facie charged the board’s president Anurag Thakur with perjury and contempt of court.
“We are inclined to initiate prosecution against the president,” said a bench comprising chief justice T.S. Thakur, and justices D.Y. Chandrachud and A.M. Khanwilkar.
The charges of perjury were debated after the bench found discrepancies in Thakur’s statements made to the court on seeking a letter from the International Cricket Council (ICC) to state that implementation of Lodha panel’s recommendations and the apex court’s directions amounted to government interference in the board’s working and could mean the derecognition of BCCI. ICC refused to provide such a letter.
Separately, referring to Thakur’s affidavit filed before the apex court on 3 December in which he expressed his inability to implement the Justice Lodha panel’s recommendations to reform BCCI as he “cannot force” state associations to comply, the court said that BCCI office-bearers are deliberately stalling administrative reforms.
“They are well-meaning recommendations that will only do good to the game. We cannot see why you would obstruct this,” the court said.
Senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam who is assisting the court in the case questioned Thakur’s ability to run BCCI.
“If he is accused of contempt and perjury, (we) cannot have him at the helm of affairs,” he said. The court also asked the BCCI to suggest names of people who could replace the current office-bearers within a week. This came after the BCCI raised objections to the Lodha panel’s plea to appoint former home secretary G.K. Pillai as an observer.
“When we are opposing the appointment of the administrator, then there is no question of recommending names of new members to be appointed to the board. We will wait for the next order,” said a BCCI official on condition of anonymity.
The Lodha panel was constituted by the apex court to clean up BCCI after the 2013 Indian Premier League betting and spot-fixing scandal.
While BCCI agreed to implement some of the panel’s suggestions, it has opposed and refused to implement the “one state, one vote” formula, the age cap for office-bearers, and the ban on civil servants being part of BCCI’s board.
Sports activist, lawyer, and member of the Aam Aadmi Party Rahul Mehra suggested a three-point strategy to deal with the ongoing legal battle between the BCCI and the Lodha panel.
“The court must immediately issue notices of contempt and perjury against Anurag Thakur and other BCCI top officials. Secondly, the court must ensure an alternative mechanism is put in place to make sure that accountability and transparency measures are brought into the BCCI,” Mehra said.
“In addition to this, a 3-5 member body of individuals with utmost integrity should govern cricket till all recommendations of the Lodha panel are implemented. Lastly, a time frame needs to be set by the Court to ensure a seamless transition and consequently a fresh start for BCCI.”
Rajeev Shukla, a member of the BCCI, declined comment.
Anurag Thakur and BCCI CEO Rahul Johri did not respond to calls and messages seeking comment.