New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday removed Anurag Thakur as president and Ajay Shirke as secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), setting the stage for a revamp of the country’s top cricketing body after the two officials failed to comply with its order to implement the reforms recommended by the Lodha committee.
The verdict was passed after a long-drawn impasse over the implementation of the reforms recommended in the report by the Lodha committee, which was constituted by the apex court to clean up the BCCI after the 2013 Indian Premier League betting and spot-fixing scandal.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur asked the two officials to immediately “cease and demit” from the BCCI and held that all office-bearers, both at the national and state level, would have to comply with the Lodha panel recommendations and provide an unconditional undertaking to the court to this effect.
Under the order, all office-bearers are required to meet the panel’s eligibility criteria and cease to hold office if they are over 70 years old, have served more than nine years at the BCCI, have been charged with a criminal offence or declared insolvent.
“This is a logical consequence because once the committee’s reforms were accepted by the Supreme Court in its order of 18 July 2016, it had to be implemented. There were obstructions and impediments. We fixed the timelines which were not adhered to; we submitted three reports to the court and even then it was not implemented. So, obviously this was to happen and it has happened,” former CJI R.M. Lodha told CNBC-TV18 after the order.
Anurag Thakur said, “For me, it was not a personal battle. It was a battle for the autonomy of the sports body. I respect Supreme Court as any citizen should. SC judges feel that BCCI could do better under retired judges; I wish them all the best.”
The court also issued a show cause notice to Thakur, asking why perjury and contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him for attempting to deliberately stall administrative reforms.
The BCCI’s top office-bearers will be superseded by a new set of administrators who will take over the cricket body’s functioning to ensure the implementation of the recommended reforms. In this regard, the court has asked amicus curiae Gopal Subramanium and senior counsel Fali S. Nariman to suggest names for the composition of a new panel at the next hearing.
For now, the court has directed the senior-most-vice president of the BCCI to act as interim president and joint secretary Amitabh Choudhary to act as secretary.
While the court order does not clearly define seniority, C.K. Khanna, current vice-president of the central zone, who has served the BCCI for six-and-a-half years over two consecutive terms, is likely to take over as the president, a senior BCCI official said on condition of anonymity.
T.C. Mathew (west zone), Gautam Roy (east zone), M.L. Nehru (north zone) and Dr. G. Ganga Raju (south zone) are among the other vice-presidents of the BCCI.
The issue of perjury by Thakur arose after the court found discrepancies in his statements on seeking a letter from the International Cricket Council (ICC) stating that implementation of the 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 the BCCI.
The ICC refused to provide such a letter.
On 18 July, the Supreme Court gave its nod to appointing a representative of the Comptroller and Auditor General in the apex council as recommended by the Lodha committee.
Shirke said he was absolutely fine with the courts’ order asking him to leave office.
“I have no reaction to the sacking. If that is the Supreme Court’s order, I cease to be secretary. It cannot get any simpler than that. My role in BCCI is over. I have no personal attachment to the post,” he said.
“This is a landmark order and a great way to begin the year. It reinforces the faith of the common man and goes to show that the courts’ orders must be followed. The apex court has taught the BCCI a lesson and directed it to conform to the law of the land,” said Rahul Mehra, sports activist, lawyer and Aam Aadmi Party member.
While the 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 the BCCI’s board.
The matter will be heard next on 19 January.