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BCCI-Lodha panel judgment day: We’ve gone by what the court asked us to do, says Justice Lodha

On eve of what could be a landmark day in Indian cricket, The Indian Express spoke with Justice Lodha and heard his side of the story.

Written by Maneesh Chhibber, Sandeep Dwivedi | New Delhi |
October 6, 2016 2:16:54 am
Justice Lodha says the panel has not touched upon the routine affairs of BCCI in any manner.

The BCCI will be presenting its progress report on the implementation of the Justice R M Lodha Committee’s recommendations to the Supreme Court on Thursday. On eve of what could be a landmark day in Indian cricket, The Indian Express spoke with Justice Lodha and heard his side of the story.

WATCH VIDEO: Supreme Court Bars BCCI From Releasing Funds To State Associations: What It Means?

How did you react to the news about the possibility of cancellation of the NZ tour?

It was a little surprising. I don’t think the Test in Indore was going to be rescheduled. Today, we got the details of disbursement (of funds to associations) after the BCCI took the decision. Surprisingly, from October 1 to 3, before our email reached the banks, they had disbursed the funds to about 12 or 13 state associations. However, Madhya Pradesh was not one of them. Now, where is the question of any threat to the Test match? I don’t think international matches can be dealt like this.

WATCH VIDEO: BCCI President Anurag Thakur On Conflict Of Interest Issues – Dec 2015 Interview

Do you think the BCCI is also playing a game that is not cricket?

It does seem, to some extent. BCCI must understand that initially the Supreme Court gave the committee the task to suggest reforms. We did that after an exercise that lasted almost a year. Our report was submitted on January 4, 2016. When we submitted our report, it was only recommendatory. Thereafter, the court heard the BCCI. They for months argued the matter, took all sorts of objections. After an elaborate and detailed hearing, the SC pronounced their verdict on July 18, 2016. Once the verdict was pronounced, the report got merged into the verdict, it got a seal of approval from the SC. The BCCI might have had their difficulties in the implementation of diverse things which we had recommended, they had argued about it. One may agree, one may not agree, but the judgment is binding, it has to be respected.

READ| Supreme Court likely to pronounce order against BCCI in Lodha panel non-compliance on Friday

BCCI says that according to the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, under which BCCI is registered, they can only change their constitution if they have a three-fourth majority. They say they didn’t have that consensus, so they can’t implement the changes…

Maybe the judgment doesn’t directly deal with it, I can’t say off hand, but surely all the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Registration Act must have been considered. If that was not the case, the plea was not amenable to the court’s jurisdiction. The court told BCCI that ‘look you are governing cricket in India, you are discharging a public function, so while discharging a public function, you are amenable to judicial review’. Maybe, the judgment doesn’t refer to the specific provision of the TN Societies Registration Act. Now the entire gamut of reasoning is that here is a body, registered under an Act, discharging public function and it is amenable to judicial review. Once a body is amenable to judicial review, what relief should be given and what directive should be given, it is the job of the court, and that is what the SC has done.

READ: Judgment Day: We’re going by law of the land — Tamil Nadu Societies Act, says Anurag Thakur

What has been the task of the committee?

The SC gave us two tasks. Draw the timeline for the implementation and supervision of the implementation. We have gone by what SC asked us to do. We gave timelines in two phases. We have not touched upon the routine affairs of BCCI in any manner.

One of the timelines we gave the BCCI concerned the framing of disbursement policy. The report says disbursement to state associations must be need-based. It can’t be uniform. We wanted institutional decision- making. Not that this time they will get Rs 80 crore, tomorrow somebody else comes and says let’s give everyone Rs 100 crore. We directed BCCI that by September 30, 2016 you frame the disbursement policy. They didn’t just miss the deadline, but in the third meeting they decided to disburse the additional funds. They gave Rs 10 to 20 crore to each association. This is directly in conflict with the timeline and the subject of reforms. This is not a routine matter.

Do you think the BCCI thought we will manage things, hence the delay?

I can only say once the highest court of the land has given its verdict, it has to be respected. What message you are sending to players about discipline? Law is very important. If an order is passed and if you are not implementing, you are denting the rule of law.

The panel seems to be too kind to players. They are nominated, not elected, and every international cricketer directly becomes a state member.

READ: Judgment Day: Supreme Court panel set to take over cricket board

We have never said that BCCI should be managed and run by players. Players are very important stakeholders, you can’t run an institution without one of the important stakeholders’ voice being there. Their inputs are very valuable. Not that they are the best administrators. Look, all lawyers don’t have to be good judges. Ultimately one has to deliver.

In your report, you seem to be getting into the nitty-gritty of cricketing affairs. Do you think the judges were qualified to suggest how many selectors should be there and abolition of zones?

This is not a fair. We interacted with a large number of people, which included six former captains, about eight to 10 top players, all BCCI officials, some of them from past, journalists, police officers and other administrators. We found that the system of having zonal selectors was leading to a lot of nepotism, favouritism. If you are disbanding the zonal system and you continue to have five, indirectly there will be a person in the committee from each zone. So we had to replace that number with another number. It could be any number . 3, 7, 11. We settled for three. We have provided a talent search committee, so the basic task of finding talent is with that committee. It would be a feeder to the selectors. The arguments that how only three selectors can pick a national team is a bogey.

But the question remains: should the judiciary be taking cricketing decisions?

Look, we thought that we are not interfering with cricket matters. See, number of selectors is an administrative matter. How many selectors, composition of team etc, that is not a cricketing matter. Cricketing matter is who is being selected. Look what happened to Mohinder Amarnath. How did the then president overrule him. (Mohinder Amarnath, as a selector, wanted to replace MS Dhoni as captain. It is said the then BCCI president N Srinivasan vetoed the decision.) The idea is to disband a monopolised approach and to bring in institutionalised thinking.

What about your recommendation of 15 days’ international break before and after IPL?

It is very important to understand. IPL is a long-duration tournament. You remember an important member of the national team was injured during IPL and missed an overseas tour. The idea is to ensure longevity of players in the game. So if a player gets injured, there are 15 days to recoup.

BCCI is saying they have a few practical problems in implementation. At this stage, is there any time or reason for them to have a word with you?

Look, now it has to be in front of the court. It was court’s judgment. Now I don’t think anyone outside the court can change the court’s order.

Do you think this is a case of judicial overreach?

If a court gives you a task, you are armed with the court’s order. You don’t go into the wisdom of the court or the correctness of the judgment. You have to comply with the directive given to you.

READ: Before hearing, Anurag Thakur, Ajay Shirke fire salvos

Were you surprised by the BCCI’s attack on the secretary to your committee, Gopal Sankaranarayanan?
Yes, I am surprised by the way they are speaking about the committee. I have been telling repeatedly that ours is not an adversarial job. We are not adversaries to the BCCI. We are doing what the court has asked us to do. Now someone told me, what was attributed to the BCCI president, that the committee’s action of writing email to banks was not in good faith. Now ‘good faith’ are very strong words. It’s unfortunate, without comprehending they are saying things. Out of their anxiety they do these things, we don’t respond to these things.

If the reforms get implemented, everyone in the present set-up will be wiped out. Will be a limbo?

No it doesn’t happen like this. There is a huge pool of talent available, not anybody is indispensable. Look, it shouldn’t be confined to a few people. So many people are there who can be excellent administrators. They can fail also but it will be after they have got an opportunity, it’s not rocket science.

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