The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed displeasure over "sparring" between BCCI Committee of Administrators (CoA) chief Vinod Rai and its member Diana Edulji and said they should not bring their differences in "public domain". The apex court, while observing that it was "partially aware" of what was going on in the CoA, said that whosoever is involved in these issues, they should not bring it in public domain.
"We have heard in newspaper reports that some sparring is going on between CoA members. We want to know is it correct?" asked a bench comprising Justices S A Bobde and A M Sapre.
Senior advocate Parag Tripathi, appearing for the CoA, responded, "Not on core issues." To this, the bench said, "We have thought to tell the amicus curiae to inform them (CoA members) that whosoever is involved, they should not bring it in public domain. It should not come in public domain".
In 2017, the apex court had appointed a four-member CoA, headed by former Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) Vinod Rai, to run the affairs of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and implement the court-approved recommendations of the Justice R M Lodha panel on reforms in the cash-rich cricket body.
The other three members of the CoA were -- former Indian women cricket captain Diana Edulji, famous historian Ramachandra Guha and banker Vikram Limaye. Following the resignations of Guha and Limaye, the CoA presently has only two members -- Rai and Edulji.
The two-member CoA has been divided on several matters including the recent controversy involving cricketers Hardik Pandya and K L Rahul. Pandya and Rahul had attracted widespread criticism for their alleged misogynistic comments on TV Show 'Koffee with Karan'. Rai had reportedly recommended a two-match ban on Pandya and Rahul, but Edulji had taken the matter to the BCCI legal cell which refused to call the players' actions a violation of the code of conduct and recommended the appointment of an ombudsman.
The CoA chief and Edulji had also reportedly differed on the controversy relating to exclusion of Indian women cricketer Mithali Raj from the playing 11 in the crucial semi-final match of the recently concluded women's world cup. During the hearing on Thursday, senior advocate P S Narasimha, assisting the court as amicus curiae in the BCCI matter, told the court that earlier there were four members in CoA but now there were only two.
"We will appoint the members," the bench said.
To this, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for a state cricket association, said the number of members in CoA should have been odd. Narasimha also said the CoA should comprise of three members. Sibal told the court that CoA would mean that BCCI would be "sidelined completely".
However, the bench said, "We understand that. It (CoA) will be until further orders. Can we do it in-chamber? We have a name in our mind. We will pass an order".
Later, the bench observed that the CoA may also comprise of five members. "We are partially aware of what is going on in CoA," the bench observed. The counsel appearing for some of the state cricket associations told the court that CoA has not released funds to them. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra Cricket Association, said the condition was "precarious" as their stadium has been attached in a court proceeding and they have not been given funds by the CoA.
Sibal argued that for the last three years, "not a single penny has been given to the state cricket associations". Tripathi told the bench that funds were released directly to the respective vendors for the works done by them.
"As long as people are playing the game and cricket is going on, we are not concerned," the bench observed. It asked Narasimha to advise the CoA to release funds to the state cricket associations for the cricketing purpose.
"At the moment, let CoA be re-constituted and they can seek the advice of P S Narasimha and then release funds. We are not going to look into the accounts," the bench said, adding, "We think that CoA is not utilising the services of amicus. Let them do it".
Meanwhile, the apex court issued notice to the CoA on an application of BJP leader Anurag Thakur, who was removed by the top court from the post of BCCI president in 2017 for obstructing its directions for overhauling governance in the cricket body, that he be allowed to contest and get back into the elected body of the BCCI.
"My problem is that I am being barred (from BCCI) and have no remedy for the last two years," senior advocate P S Patwalia, appearing for Thakur, said.