Rajendra Mal Lodha, during his tenure as the Chief Justice of India from 2008 to 2014, handled the 2G scam and the coal scam, officially pegged at Rs 1.86 lakh crore by the then Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vinod Rai. On January 30, the Supreme Court appointed Rai chairman of a four-member Committee of Administrators (COA) to run the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)—a first in the 88-year existence of the world’s wealthiest cricket organisation—and oversee its structural and governance reforms. As chairman of the COA, Rai will also ensure that fresh elections at the BCCI and its state affiliates were held as per the Lodha Committee recommendations approved by the apex court. Lodha, 67, is confident that the COA is a “good mix” and would have no difficulty in implementing the proposed reforms. Widely known for his impeccable credentials and clean image, Lodha tells Qaiser Mohammad Ali in an exclusive interview that the BCCI assignment was a “unique experience” and “an entirely different cup of tea” for him. Excerpts from the interview:
What is your impression of the four-member committee of administrators the Supreme Court has appointed to oversee BCCI?
I think the selection is a reasonably good mix. Vinod Rai is a top bureaucrat and has handled many departments. Vikram Limaye is a corporate person, and has been managing companies. Diana Edulji knows cricket from inside. And Ramchandra Guha is also a knowledgeable person with an interest in the game; my committee had an interaction with him in Bangalore [on the BCCI case]. This four-member panel must implement the reforms that we suggested and the court accepted. I don’t think there will be much difficulty. Of course, it’s a challenging task, but under the watchful eyes of the Supreme Court, the COA would be able to do it.
Will this panel get a free hand to implement those recommendations?
Yes. Now, they are the administrators, so I think they will take up the matter with BCCI’s state associations. With their financial constraints, I think the state associations will realise there is no way out, but to fall in line. It may take some time, but it will be done. The Supreme Court has not fixed a timeline for that.
When do you see fresh elections to the BCCI taking place?
The Supreme Court asked us in its July 18, 2016, order to implement it and also fixed the timelines. So, the first task was to amend the by-laws of the BCCI and the state associations, and the last thing was to hold elections, with a lot many things to be done in between. Elections can’t be held under the old rules as that would serve no purpose. First, all that we have suggested must be brought to the statute book; once that’s done, everything will fall in place.
Was this the toughest case you have handled so far?
I wouldn’t call it the toughest, but it was an entirely different cup of tea, particularly the structural reforms. Awarding punishments to the two delinquents [IPL franchisees Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings were suspended for two years each for their role in the 2013 IPL betting-fixing scandal] was not that tough because we had been doing that as judges too. But suggesting structural reforms was a challenge.
Some big names were involved in this case—industrialists, politicians, ministers. I am sure you knew this.
Yes, we were conscious of the fact, but to us it hardly mattered. We were not concerned with who the administrators of the BCCI were. We were given a task that we accepted as a challenge and we did what we thought was for the betterment of the game. Before I retired, I had handled the coal allocation case, which had big political repercussions, besides other cases. That way, I don’t think there was any such thought in my mind.
Did your panel face any resistance from the BCCI officials?
Not at all. Like the first exercise regarding punishment to delinquents, as soon as we issued notice to the then BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel, asking him to send us the rules etc, he immediately appeared along with his secretary, appointed the treasurer [Anirudh Chaudhry] as the nodal officer and gave us whatever information we wanted. And whenever we issued summons or issued notices, it was no problem...even when we started the second exercise regarding the structural reforms.
Was it difficult to implement the same Memorandum of Association in both the BCCI and its state associations.
Nobody wants change, especially a change that brings transparency... Therefore, there will be opposition to reforms, as it affects a few individuals.
Our suggestions were to the effect that it hardly mattered. Even if they remained a society or a company all these changes could have been brought in.
But in the Supreme Court, the Attorney General of India has raised this difficulty. He gave the example of the Delhi and District Cricket Association, a company. Do you still think that your recommendations can be implemented in companies too without altering the existing Companies Act?
Of course. These changes can be brought in because the recommendations prescribe certain eligibility—what should be the governing body, what should be the administrative body etc.
For a cricket body, which would be better—to be registered under the Societies Act or under the Companies Act?
We have said in our report that it would be desirable if all the members of the BCCI, i.e. all the state associations, have a uniform structure. That’s what we have suggested. The report doesn’t give emphasis on whether a body should be a society or a company, but its ultimate objective was that there should be separate governance and management. Governance should be in the hands of elected office-bearers and management should be in the hands of professionals who know how to administer a company or a society professionally.
But some people say that the Lodha Committee has intruded in their domain, overstepped its brief.
Everyone wants status quo; nobody wants change, especially a change that brings transparency and takes their functioning to the public domain. That is because everyone likes to keep whatever they do inside closed chambers, so it doesn’t see the sunlight. Therefore, there will be opposition to reforms, particularly because it affects a few individuals.
After Shashank Manohar became BCCI president for a second time, he announced several measures to be taken, as per your recommendations. Had he been there now, would it have been easy to implement the reforms?
I wouldn’t guess, but Manohar met us a couple of days before he became president. Most of our suggestions that we discussed were implemented. Now, what would have been the position had he continued is anybody’s guess. Surely, he looked to be quite objective and was also interested in achieving transparency in the BCCI’s functioning.
Did the audacity of the state associations in repeatedly refusing to implement reforms surprise you?
Not only were we surprised, we were actually shocked because the highest court’s judgement is the last word in the country and everyone has to obey it. We were shocked there were people who could try to overcome the highest court’s judgement. It was a little disgusting. Being from the judiciary, we believed that rule of law was supreme, and once the Supreme Court passes a judgement, it is accepted by everyone. So, if somebody tries to defy that, obviously it hurts you.
Some BCCI officials alleged your committee interfered in the board’s financial matters, including an imprest account.
We didn’t touch any financial matters. We didn’t want to do that. That was the reason why in our reports we had requested the court to appoint administrators. The CEO was dealing with the finances. Once he wrote to us that some amount was to come to the BCCI from some IPL franchisee and, because most of these accounts were not operational, he wanted guidance from the committee as to where that amount should be deposited. He said the only account that was being operated was the imprest account and we said, “Okay, you deposit it in that account.”
There is confusion over the maximum tenures for officials. Is it a total of nine years or nine years separately at the BCCI and the states? The court recently redrafted this recommendation for clarity, but confusion prevails.
"Awarding punishments to [Rajasthan Royals and CSK] was not tough as we had been doing that as judges too. But suggesting structural reforms was a challenge."
It’s very clear. After the report was accepted by the court on July 18, lots of emails came to us. Instead of responding to all these mails—one of them related to nine years at the state associations and nine years at the BCCI—we put up a few FAQs on the committee’s website. One of the FAQs related to this aspect—whether it was nine years cumulative or nine years separately. We had clarified, with regard to the language in our report, that it would be nine years in the state associations plus nine years in the BCCI, but with mandatory cooling-off periods. It is clear; it is in black and white. Then what seems to have happened is that on January 3 this year, amicus curiae Gopal Subramanium mentioned the matter and made a request to the court that in the January 2 order, which was passed a day earlier, a clarification should be made that nine years is cumulative of the state associations and the BCCI. And the Supreme Court passed that order. As soon as that was brought to our notice, and since a Supreme Court order is binding on all of us, we said that our earlier FAQs and the report have to be read as directed by the court. So it should now be, nine years in all and not separately.
But your committee’s intention was not a combined nine years in total, isn’t it?
That wasn’t our intention, but the Supreme Court is the final interpreter, whether of a law or a report. So if it has interpreted it in a particular way, it’s the final word. No committee or anybody else has the authority to change the Supreme Court order.
The attorney general, who represented Railways, Services and the Association of Indian Universities (AIU)—BCCI members whose votes are proposed to be taken away—remarked in the court that if bureaucrats or ministers from these three institutions can’t attend the BCCI meeting, then who else can. Did your panel appreciate this aspect while recommending a bar on ministers and bureaucrats as cricket administrators?
Yes. We discussed it threadbare that they were not required to be continued as members of the BCCI because they don’t have territories of their own; the states have their territories. We have given the reasons [in the report] why Railways, Services and Universities should not continue to remain as regular members. Once they are not regular members of the BCCI, obviously the eligibility that we have prescribed for office-bearers would have no relevance for associate members.
But this step has made the three institutions angry.
This matter is sub-judice, therefore I wouldn’t like to comment further on it.
The three institutions say they are very old members of the BCCI.
That is applicable to the Cricket Club of India [founded 83 years ago] in Mumbai, the Kolkata’s National Cricket Club [founded 65 years ago], the three associations of Maharashtra and the three associations of Gujarat. But we have given reasons why there should be one state-one vote, and why these associations shouldn’t continue to have regular [full] membership.
Since your committee submitted its report, CJI T.S. Thakur has retired, a new bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra has come in, there are now two amicus curiae. Is there any apprehension that your recommendations may be diluted?
No. Two things should be very clear. When we submitted our report on January 4, 2016, they were recommendations, and on July 18, when the Supreme Court accepted most of the recommendations, they became a part of the court order. Once the report got the seal of approval, it has merged into the order of the court—and now it too is the order of the court. Once it is an order, it should be clear it’s binding on all and has to be implemented. People come, people go. Individuals don’t matter in institutions. The July 18 judgement is the judgement of the Supreme Court. Unless the court changes it or makes any modification as per the legal processes available, it remains as it is. And when it remains as it is, it has to be obeyed and implemented, even though the judges may have changed. There can be a delay, but it has to be implemented.
The Mukul Mudgal Committee, which probed the IPL betting-fixing scandal, submitted to the Supreme Court a sealed envelope containing some names. Did your committee also discuss that?
The Supreme Court order told us that if it was necessary for the committee, in giving its report on structural reforms, to look at the part of Justice Mudgal’s report which has those names, then the committee was free to look into that and do whatever it felt was necessary. But since there was no connection between the structural reforms and that part of Justice Mudgal’s report, we didn’t deal with that part. That’s what we reported to the court. It was not necessary and, therefore, we have not seen that [the contents of the envelope].