The Supreme Court reiterated that the objective of the Lodha panel recommendations was to make the BCCI more transparent. © AFP
Mumbai’s Cricket Club of India (CCI), one of the founder members of the BCCI, faced tough questions from the Supreme Court on Monday over its resistance to structural reforms recommended by the Lodha panel. The court reiterated that the purpose of reforms was to make the BCCI more transparent and objective, and stressed it would take care to ensure the recommendations do not violate any fundamental rights laid down by the Constitution of India. The next hearing will be held on April 13.
The CCI has opposed the Lodha panel’s ‘one state, one vote’ recommendation on the grounds that it will alter and dilute the club’s various rights, including the right to vote, and affect its status as a full member that it has enjoyed since the inception of BCCI. However, the two-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice Ibrahim Kalifulla, was not convinced the recommendation would violate the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution, which gives the right to form an association.
“If the Lodha committee recommendation is accepted, it is not violating your rights under 19 (1)(c). You can say my right to associate with the BCCI to vote is affected but you are a company and not a citizen and that certain rights are only guaranteed to citizens and not to the company,” the court said, according to a PTI report. “The plain reading of Article 19 1(c) does not allow you the protection.
“The first question is, are you a citizen? If you are not, your right is not violated. 19(1)(c) will come if Lodha Committee changes the character of the company. In BCCI you are there only as individual members to vote. Members in the BCCI are not individuals but all associations.
“Also keep in mind, what is the purpose of the guidelines recommended by the committee. The purpose is to clean the system, to make the BCCI more transparent, open, objective, and to make it more accountable and more responsive and representative.
“If the structural changes in the BCCI, as recommended, are accepted, there will be far more openness and it will bring more transparency.
“On principle, you have to accept that the purpose of the whole exercise starting from the judgement delivered (in January 2015) was meant to achieve a very laudable and deserving result to make BCCI a transparent, open, credible, objective and responsive body to inspire [a] confident and credible system, and to achieve that objective we will be very careful that the recommendations are not violative of fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1) (c).”
The bench asked CCI counsel, Shyam Divan, whether the club, after an objective assessment of the recommendations, could give a reason for why it should have a right to vote.
“Territory is big and more important than to say why it can’t have the right to vote,” the bench said, adding that the purpose of the exercise was “to streamline, for which it is necessary to remove undeserving rights enjoyed by certain persons.”
“If we have to go by you, it appears that the continuance of BCCI is beyond repair.
“Even if you consider the BCCI a private entity, it conducts a public function and Lodha committee has examined what changes are required and what actually in it can inspire confidence.”
The bench also questioned the CCI counsel on the club’s finances: “Why are you not receiving any money from the BCCI for promoting the game? What is your income for five years? Do you have the balance sheet to show how the other activities are carried out? We will have an idea why you are not getting financial support from the BCCI.”
The court added: “It is very rare to find that you go on with cricket activity and you need no support of finance.”
The court also clarified that the ‘one state, one vote’ recommendation did not interfere with the management of the CCI, as the report had stated that in case a state had more than one association, those without a vote could be associate members.
“[The] Lodha committee is not interfering with your right to management. You can carry out your activities whether it is a table tennis match or badminton tournament,” the court observed. “You can also have your bar running. There is no interference.”
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo