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Thursday, June 1, 2023

BCCI can’t bargain on Supreme Court order: Lodha

CricketBCCI can't bargain on Supreme Court order: Lodha

Justice RM Lodha, the architect of the Lodha Committee recommendations, has expressed dismay at the tardiness of the BCCI and the Committee of Administrators (CoA) in implementing the sweeping structural reforms approved by the Supreme Court nearly a year ago.

While Lodha, a former Chief Justice of India, was irked by the BCCI’s defiance, he was also critical of the CoA for not being proactive enough.

“It’s unfortunate, actually, [that] nothing has been done,” Lodha told ESPNcricinfo. “Things have not moved, reforms have not been taken forward, so definitely it is not a good thing to happen. I have yet to see a body defy the Supreme Court’s order continuously. It is almost one year – 11 months are already over and the 12th month [is] going on and there is no sign of implementation of the highest court’s order. This is something that doesn’t happen at all.

“Had [the CoA been proactive], by this time [the] Supreme Court order and reforms would have been in place. Unfortunately, I think, [they have involved] themselves in incidental matters instead of taking the reforms forward and implementing the order which was the main brief given to them.”

Lodha also felt that the resignation of CoA member Ramachandra Guha, who alleged inaction on a number of issues, was possibly an indication that the committee did not function smoothly.

“The CoA are doing their job,” he said. “[But] maybe they [spend] a lot of their time in these contractual and administrative matters, whereas the focus should have been the implementation of the court order because that was the primary task. Everything else was incidental. Maybe, as the reports have come, one of their members has resigned, so maybe the things aren’t going on smoothly. I don’t know; it’s all conjecture and surmise.

“The fact of the matter is the BCCI actually continues to defy and not implement the Supreme Court order. The CoA, being a body appointed by the court, must have been actually proactive and the focus ought to have been implementation of the court order.”

In the lead-up to the board’s special general meeting earlier this week, the CoA had been hopeful that the BCCI would adopt the Lodha reforms.

After discussions, the committee had urged state associations to distil their objections of the Lodha recommendations to a few points which could then be run past the Supreme Court. The committee believed this might make the court more amenable to revisit these recommendations.

However, the BCCI went ahead and formed a committee of their own to examine the areas of difficulty in the implementation process.

Lodha was categorical that there was no scope for negotiation in an order delivered by the highest court in the land. “After the Supreme Court’s judgement what do you negotiate?” he asked with a laugh. “You can’t bargain on the court’s order. To overrule the Supreme Court’s judgement, no authority can do that. The only authority that can change it [the order] is the Supreme Court itself, no-one else.

“The Supreme Court’s judgement is there, it is there. And, it has been passed after hearing BCCI at quite some length. I don’t fathom any reason. I just can’t figure out what should be negotiated. A Supreme Court judgement is non-negotiable.”

According to Lodha, there was no ambiguity in the Supreme Court’s position since it passed the order in July 2016. “There is no history of order passed by the Supreme Court staying the implementation of the judgement,” he said. “Rather, the orders subsequent thereto have been to implement the order. The cricket board and the state associations will continue to put obstructions, but that should not hamper the implementation of the highest court’s order.

“People who know the procedure of the court know how the Supreme Court actually deals with the matter after the final judgement is passed. There is a procedure for [filing a] review petition. The other procedure is of curative petition, that’s all. Both processes have been pursued [by the BCCI] and pursued unsuccessfully.

“There have been no impediments from the court’s side. As a matter of fact, there is no order; the judgement of July 18 stands as it is. It’s as simple as that: it has to be implemented because Supreme Court has not modified or reviewed its order.”

The BCCI SGM was attended by veteran administrators N Srinivasan and Niranjan Shah despite their being ineligible to be office bearers on more than one count according to the Lodha guidelines. When asked about Srinivasan’s eligibility, CoA chairman Vinod Rai had said his committee was not mandated by the Supreme Court to “sit in judgement on people’s qualification or disqualification.”

Lodha, however, said the eligibility was clearly specified in the court’s order. On whether the CoA could have taken a call on the matter themselves, he said: “Look, our report is there. A person is disqualified if he has attained the age of 70 years. This has got the seal of the approval from the Supreme Court. One should always keep in mind [that] what cannot be done directly cannot be done or achieved indirectly. Ultimately, it is a committee of administrators appointed by the Supreme Court to oversee the affairs.”

Still, with the Supreme Court hearing the matter on July 14, Lodha was optimistic the reforms would be implemented. “The court order has to be implemented. There may be some delay that is happening, of course,” he said. “But, I am sure it will be taken to its logical conclusion and our efforts and hardwork will not go waste.”

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