The Supreme Court has axed Ajay Shirke and Anurag Thakur from their respective posts in BCCI © AFP

The Supreme Court has axed Ajay Shirke and Anurag Thakur from their respective posts in the BCCI. © AFP

In an unprecedented, far-reaching but not unexpected move, the Supreme Court of India on Monday (January 2) removed Anurag Thakur as the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, and Ajay Shirke as the secretary.

Monday’s judgment came after a protracted standoff, culminating in the apex court coming down hard on the BCCI administration, which refused steadfastly to implement in full the recommendations of the Lodha committee, which had been given the seal of approval by the Supreme Court on July 18, 2016.

The court also asked Thakur why perjury and contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against him. The issue of perjury stemmed from an affidavit from Thakur in which he denied asking for a letter from the International Cricket Council to the effect that the recommendation to have a member of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s office on the apex council of the BCCI was tantamount to governmental interference.

Shashank Manohar, Thakur’s predecessor as BCCI president and currently the ICC’s independent chairman, contradicted his successor and confirmed to the Supreme Court that Thakur had indeed asked him for a letter. ICC guidelines do not allow for governmental interference in the administration of its member boards.

The court also set up a committee mandated with the task to implement the Lodha panel reforms. It will appoint a panel of administrators to oversee and supervise the BCCI, and has sought names by January 19 from Gopal Subramanium, the amicus curiae, and Fali S Nariman.

“Nobody can escape the verdict from the highest law of the land, this is the logical consequence. Once the recommendations were accepted by the court, it had be implemented,” said RM Lodha after the verdict. “There were obstructions, there were impediments … obviously this had to happen, and it has happened. The Supreme Court itself has ensured that its order of 18 July is now enforced.

“It’s a victory for the game of cricket and it will flourish, administrators come and go, ultimately it is for the game.”

The senior-most vice-president to have abided by all the recommendations of the Lodha panel will act as the board president while the joint secretary will perform the duties of the secretary, the court observed.

Reiterating its earlier position, the court made it clear that those in the BCCI who are not Indian citizens, who are above 70 years of age, those who are insolvent, serving ministers and heads of other sports associations, those facing charges and those who have been office-bearers of the BCCI for more than nine years, must leave immediately.

The three-judge bench comprising TS Thakur, the Chief Justice of India, and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, backed the Lodha committee’s views on office-bearers. Justice Chandrachud said all office-bearers who did not fulfil the recommendations would “demit and cease to hold office”.

Speaking from London, Shirke said he didn’t have any reaction to offer. “It is the decision of the Supreme Court and I accept the decision,” he told a television channel. “The enforcement of the order is not in my individual control. The members decide. It is the members’ board. Now that the Supreme Court has settled the matter, let the new dispensation carry on the good new work.”

Bishan Singh Bedi, the former Indian captain, welcomed the move, saying, “This will be very good for Indian sports and cricket in particular. It is a huge relief that cricket from now on will not be at a personal freedom of anybody.”

Also read: Lodha Committee verdict: Ready reckoner