In a fresh twist to the ongoing case on cricket reforms, the Supreme Court today allowed the Centre and embattled BCCI to suggest names for appointment in the committee of administrators to run the apex cricket body, making it clear that no one over the age of 70 years should be considered.
The court, which had initially sought names from amicus curiae, Anil Divan and Gopal Subramaniam, for appointing the administrators, deferred the decision to announce the names of administrators till January 30 after BCCI and the central government successfully argued that they should also be allowed to give names in sealed covers for consideration.
The bench, comprising Justices Dipak Misra, A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, allowed BCCI to shortlist three names from among the existing office bearers who are not disqualified by following due procedure, to represent the Board in the ICC Board meeting to be held from February 2.
The names to be considered for the post of administrators and representing BCCI in the ICC meet respectively, have to be submitted in sealed covers in the court by January 27, it said.
The bench took note of the submission made by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who appeared for BCCI, that the cricket body was also given the liberty to suggest names for appointment of administrators and due to some "inadvertence" it was not availed of.
It also considered the arguments of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that the Centre, which was "mulling" the idea of coming out with a legislation, be allowed to suggest names.
"We permit them (Centre and BCCI) to suggest names for committee of administrators," it said, adding that the names "should be in consonance with the main judgement (of July 16, last year) and subsequent orders thereafter".
The bench clarified it would decide the size of the panel and set up the committee of administrators after considering the names suggested by amicus curiae, BCCI and the Centre.
At the outset, Rohatgi submitted that the appointment of administrators be "held back" for two weeks as the Centre was mulling the idea of bringing a "law or an executive order" on the issue of autonomy of sports bodies, including BCCI. Sibal concurred and raised the similar plea.
"This case has to move both ways. The committee of administrators has to be constituted to assist the R M Lodha committee," the bench said, while rejecting the plea.
During the hearing, the bench disagreed with the submission of amicus curiae and senior lawyer Gopal Subramaniam that a wrong message was being sent out.
The order was modified only to the extent that the nine- year tenure at BCCI and at state associations will not be "cumulative" and it has to be separate, the bench said, observing that the order was "clear as the day ... Why would a wrong message go out?"
Earlier, the court on January 3 had said that a person was disqualified from holding any post if he "has been an office bearer of BCCI or a State Association for a cumulative period of nine years".
Sibal and senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for BCCI, raised the issue of the upcoming ICC meeting and said an office-bearer of the cricket body can only be allowed to represent it and "we may lose Rs 3,000 crore".
"We did not say that you (BCCI) cannot suggest names also," the bench said.
When Sibal and Rohatgi said they should be allowed to suggest names for the committee of administrators, the bench observed "the suggestions given by amicus curiae contains names of those who are aged over 70. We are not going to appoint them and we are making it clear".
However, the amicus curiae said they had spent a lot of time to prepare the list of names and the court could itself inquire about those named in the list. "Please do appoint the committee as soon as possible," Subramaniam said.
As Sibal began his arguments, the bench said "administrators will be appointed, as the Lodha committee says recommendations have not been implemented. First of all, let us appoint the committee, then we will see what duty they will have".
During the hearing, Datar told the bench that the BCCI had implemented 12 out of the 19 recommendations.
At the fag end of the hearing, when one of the petitioners told the court that he should also be allowed to suggest some names for the committee of administrators, the bench said "It is not open for all".
"We could have straightaway appointed the administrators. We did not do it on our own earlier. We thought there should be transparency in the process," the bench said, adding, "if everybody will give names, it will create a problem".
On the issue of re-visiting the main judgement, the bench initially said that at present, it had a "small" brief with regard to appointment of administrators and moreover, the review and curative petitions have already been dismissed.
However, when Sibal and Rohatgi persisted with their grievances on legal issues, such as the state associations, governed by separate bye laws, were initially not under consideration of the proceedings, the bench said it would deal with them at a later stage.
Rohatgi again raised the issue of Railways, armed forces and Association of Universities and said their BCCI membership from permanent to associate ones was downgraded without the hearing.
The Attorney General said the issue of autonomy of sports bodies like BCCI has "international ramifications" as sometime the global bodies do not approve governmental or state control over them.
"Where were you" when the proceedings were being conducted, the bench then asked. It, however, later said, "We will also hear your grievances and if the view taken by the bench earlier is contrary to the Constitution bench judgement, we will take our own view of law and we will see it."
The bench dispelled the notion that the administrators will run the BCCI for forever and said they will ensure that the reform measures are implemented.
Subramaniam said his job as the amicus curiae was to ensure that the court's judgement, as it stands today, is implemented.
The amicus curiae, on last date of hearing, had submitted nine names in sealed cover for the proposed panel of administrators which will supervise the administration of BCCI through its Chief Executive Officer.
Prior to that, the apex court had come down heavily on the defiant BCCI brass and removed Anurag Thakur and Ajay Shirke as President and Secretary for "obstructing" and "impeding" its directions for overhauling governance in the cricket body.
It had said the BCCI will now be overseen by a committee of administrators.
The court had also slapped Thakur with contempt and perjury notices for filing a false affidavit over writing to ICC on the issue of autonomy.