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CJI Thakur hammers BCCI: Do you have complete immunity over spending 1000s of crores?

The Supreme Court on Friday said the functioning of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should be “transparent and visible” and observed that the apex cricket body was “refusing to reform” and resisting some of the important recommendations of the Justice Lodha Committee.

“You are discharging public function... how best your functioning can be improved. It has to be transparent and visible. The way you are doing (discharging your function) and how you are doing,” said the apex court bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla.

“Your position is that I am accountable to registrar of societies (in Tamil Nadu where BCCI is registered as a society) but refuse to reform.”

“You are dealing with hundreds of crores of rupees. Do you say that you have complete immunity over (spending) it and you can’t be questioned. Do you say that you can’t be questioned how you spend hundreds of crores of rupees if not thousands that you collect from the public. Can we record that statement,” the bench observed as senior counsel KK Venugopal opposed the recommendation to have a CAG representative on the country’s top cricket board.

“How the presence of the government nominee or that of CAG will violate the ICC rules and attract recognition,” the court asked Venugopal, who appeared for BCCI

The court’s query came as the BCCI told it that the presence of the CAG representative as suggested by Justice Lodha Committee would result in the de-recognition of the apex cricket body from the International Cricket Council (ICC) as it would be viewed as governmental interference in the affairs of an independent and autonomous sports body.

Asking Venugopsal to show “How the presence of government nominee or CAG would violate ICC rules and attract derecognition”, the bench observed, “You are opposing the nominee of the CAG (on the board) as it would make you vulnerable to derecognition but you are all advocating involvement of ministers and bureaucrats ... Does it not create government influence or presence.”

Telling senior counsel Venugopal that the public money that BCCI was holding as Trust was for the promotion of the game of cricket, the bench said: “The money that you have is in your trust. Are you not accountable to the beneficiaries? This money is in trust with you for whose benefits. It is for the benefit of the people who watch matches, are you not accountable to them?”

In an attempt to tell the court that the BCCI was changing in its own way, Venugopal said: “We are now going to appoint a consultant for the better management of our affairs.”

He reiterated the BCCI’s position that they would account for their actions before the statutory authorities. He told the court that the board was implementing the Lodha Committee recommendations, but would not accept some of them, in respect of which the cricket body was protected by Article 19(1)(c) of the constitution.

The BCCI is resisting the Lodha Committee recommendations which call for a ceiling of maximum of two terms for office bearers, one state-one vote, the presence of CAG representative on the BCCI board and fixing 65 years as the upper age limit of office bearers.

Senior counsel Ashok Desai, appearing for the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA), told the court that there could not be uniform rules for all the cricket associations and there could not be a cap on age limit of office bearers.

While the Lodha Committee has recommended an age limit of 65 years, the PCA has an upper age limit of 70 years.

At this, the bench asked: “Should there be an upper age limit at all? What is the age at which players retire?”

When the court was told that it was about 40 years, the bench asked at what age Bharat Ratna Sachin Tendulkar had retired.

The hearing will continue on 12 April.

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