New Delhi: The Supreme Court today threatened to initiate contempt and perjury proceedings against BCCI President Anurag Thakur while holding that “prima facie he was in contempt of court” for asking the ICC CEO for a letter but denying it on oath
The apex court warned the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chief that he may have to go to jail if found guilty.
The court reminded the BCCI top brass that Thakur as President of the board had asked for a letter from ICC CEO Dave Richardson that the appointment of a CAG nominee in the cricket body would compromise with autonomy and amount to government interference.
The bench, comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur, Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, pulled up the BCCI for trying to mislead the court and warned Thakur that he may land in jail if the apex court pronounces its order in perjury proceedings.
"Why are you trying to mislead the court? If you want to escape perjury charges, you ought to apologise. At every stage you have been trying to obstruct. Everyone wants to go around and continue to hold the post even after 70 years. This is such a lucrative business that everyone wants to go on forever.
"Freedom of expression allows you to disagree with the order but you can't obstruct implementation of order. Once we pronounce the order (in perjury proceedings), you will have no other place to go except jail," the court said.
The top court also referred to a letter by the current ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar and said even he has said that Thakur had asked for such a letter, which he had refused.
While the bench was dwelling on the issue of Justice R M Lodha panel's suggestion to appoint former Home Secretary G K Pillai as an observer of BCCI, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the board, said, "we have strong reservations but I don't want to come out with the reason in public domain".
The apex court asked the cricket board if it has any name for the post of administrator, and gave one week’s time for to file the response.
However, expressing its strong displeasure against Anurag Thakur's conduct, the bench said "If you are asking for a letter from ICC, we prima facie feel that you are in contempt and we also prima facie feel that you are liable for perjury and we are inclined to launch prosecution."
"Manohar is very clear. You did ask him to write a letter from ICC that CAG nominee in BCCI would affect the autonomy of the board. What was the occasion for you to raise this and say so? CAG nominee was for maintaining the transparency.
"What was the occasion to raise this issue after the judgement of this court? How can you tell ICC CEO to give a letter that what this court has said in its judgement about CAG nominee amounts to governmental interference. This amounts to perjury," the bench said.
The apex court said that by asking the ICC to write such a letter, BCCI has intended to defeat the purpose of the verdict, that too when the bench had made it clear thatappointment of CAG nominee would bring about transparency in the cricket body.
"Prima facie, we feel you are in contempt of court and we are inclined to launch prosecution against you. ICC Chairman Mr Manohar says that you have asked him to write a letter. There was no occasion for you to do it when the Supreme Court had said that appointment of CAG nominee would bring in transparency.
"You intend to defeat the whole purpose of the judgement. What was the occasion to do so when we had passed specific directions? We don't know what your intent is. Once an order from the Supreme Court was passed, you went to ICC and asked them to write that the reforms suggested amounts to governmental interference," the bench said.
During the hearing, Sibal said whatever the apex court was doing was for the betterment of the game but the bench should also allow the board to express themselves.
"What the Supreme Court is saying is law and is binding but I may still disagree. That liberty I must have," he said. To this, the bench shot back, "The issue is that whether you (BCCI) are absolutely incapable of implementing the recommendations of the Lodha panel which we have accepted. If a person is to be prosecuted for contempt or perjury, how can he continue? If a person is obstructing implementation of the order, how can he continue?"
Sibal, however, said, "I can place the entire records before the court. I am willing to apologise if the court feel that I am misleading the court. No one can dare to do this with the Supreme Court".
On the issue of appointment of observer in BCCI, he said it would not lead to any constructive steps. However, the bench asked Sibal, "Do you want to give some names for the panel of observers".
Initially, Sibal showed his reluctance but later he said he would take instructions and file a list of names. The bench then asked him to file the list within a week and said it would pass orders on whether to initiate contempt and perjury proceedings against Thakur.
The SC-appointed Justice Lodha committee, on November 21, recommended that certain officials, who do not fulfil the criteria laid out by it, should be removed from their post. Also, the panel backed former Union Home Secretary GK Pillai to be appointed as the Observer to oversee the administration of the cricket board.
At the outset, senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae, told the bench that affidavits filed by Thakur and BCCI Secretary Ajay Shirke clearly showed that the BCCI cannot implement the judgement of the court.
On the issue of Thakur asking ICC for letter, Subramaniam said that Manohar had also said that the letter was asked for.
"He (Thakur) is prima facie in contempt of court and perjury both. How can we have such a person at the helm of affairs who is prima facie in contempt of the court," he asked.
He also suggested that besides Pillai, two more persons should be there in the panel of observers to oversee the affairs of BCCI.
When the bench asked him to suggest some names for it, he referred to the names of former CAG Vinod Rai and retired cricketer Mohinder Amarnath.
On July 18, the court had accepted major recommendations of the Lodha Committee on reforms in BCCI, including a bar on ministers and civil servants and those above 70 from becoming its members, but left it to Parliament to decide whether it should come under RTI or whether betting on the game should be legalised.
The apex court had also accepted the recommendations of the Committee headed by retired Chief Justice of India Justice R M Lodha to have a CAG nominee in BCCI.
The bench had, however, rejected BCCI's objection against recommendations for 'one-state, one-vote' and said that states like Maharashtra and Gujarat having more than one cricket association will have voting rights on rotational basis.
The bench also accepted the recommendation that one person should hold one post in the cricket administration to avoid conflict of interest and scrapping of all administrative committees in BCCI after the CAG nominee comes in.
The apex court-appointed Lodha Committee had on January 4 recommended sweeping reforms and an administrative shake-up in the troubled BCCI.
(With PTI inputs)