BCCI Defends Its Autonomy, Draws SC Ire
The cricket board says that only the registrar of societies can take action against it
New Delhi: The Indian cricket board came in for fresh Supreme Court firing on Friday after it dug in its heels over not implementing the Lodha panel recommendations for reforming the board in the wake of match-fixing and conflict of interest charges.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) contested that it was a society and couldn’t be made accountable to the court for its internal management only because it was “cash-rich”. Only the registrar of societies could take action against it, or, in the alternative, criminal action could be initiated against it, senior advocate for BCCI KK Venugopal told a bench comprising Chief Justice of India TS Thakur and Justice FMI Kalifullah.
“The fact that we are getting in more money will make no difference to our autonomy. Most of the funds come from corporate entities (for broadcasting rights) not from the small man.”
This prompted the CJI to riposte: “You collect money from the public (by way of ticket sales). Can you not be questioned on this?”
Venugopal insisted that BCCI was only subject to the regulatory mechanism governing societies in Tamil Nadu where it was registered or the penal law.
The CJI expressed his wonder this stance in no uncertain terms. “You are telling us, ‘accuse me of corruption, malfeasance etc., but don’t ask me to reform’? Is this money not a trust in your hands?” he said.
Justice Thakur said the court had, while dealing with this specific PIL, come across charges of match fixing and conflict of interest. “You seem to have no control over the money that people give you in crores. All this is visible in your actions. We have been debating how best to make your processes pure. We do not intend to take away your management or your money. But you are saying you are happy with this state of affairs and are accountable there, not here,” the CJI said.
Venugopal, however, insisted that the court could not continue with an exercise that interferes with the character and composition of the board as it was a registered society and enjoyed complete autonomy in its internal functioning as per its byelaws.
He also resisted Lodha panel suggestion to have a CAG nominee on board to ensure transparency in its accounts, saying it may then fall foul of the ICC rules and it may be stripped of its recognition. In the same breath, he resisted another suggestion to keep out bureaucrats, politicians and ministers from holding top posts in the board.