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Aditya Verma has been at the forefront of the legal battle to clean up the functioning of the Board Of Control Of Cricket in India (BCCI).
What prompted him to challenge the mighty Board? How did he get the kind of legal representation he did? And is a foray into politics in the offing? He reveals all this and more in a candid interview with Bar & Bench.
You have become a real thorn in the flesh of the BCCI. It was your petition that led to the formation of the Lodha Committee and the implementation of most of their recommendations. Would none of this have happened if the Cricket Association of Bihar had been recognised instead of the Jharkhand Association?
It is a tricky question; lots of if’s and buts involved. If the BCCI had given Bihar full membership instead of fraudulently awarding it to Jharkhand when the state was divided in the year 2000, then corrupt officials like Amitabh Chaudhary would never have become office bearers of the BCCI, and the Board would not have to suffer this much.
Explain to us your legal journey. Why did you undertake it? How did you gather evidence to back your claims?
I come from a sports loving family. My uncle played football for India, and though my father never played, he was a huge sports enthusiast and avidly followed cricket, hockey and other sports. He owned a thriving business, and used to fly out to watch Test Cricket in the 1950’s and 60’s, at a time when travel by air was something that most people could only dream of .
He used to share his experiences with my siblings and I, and this led to us growing up to be lovers of sport by the time we reached adulthood in the late 70’s. I was lucky in that way.
I myself went on to play cricket for Tata. After I left the company, and witnessed what happened after the division of Bihar in the year 2000, when Jharkhand was fraudulently awarded membership with the collusion of corrupt BCCI officials, I decided to stand up for my state and the children of Bihar.
If you see the BCCI history, no affiliate unit’s name or area of operation has changed, but they betrayed Bihar. My legal battle for the cricketers of Bihar commenced at the end of 2006.
As far as the gathering of evidence was concerned, it was with the rise of the shining star of the BCCI, N Sreenivasan in 2013, that I suddenly made a lot of friends in the BCCI. These were people from within the organization who were opposed to Srinivasan. They provided me with the documents. Though I can’t name names, powerful officials, including former Presidents, helped me out.
The BCCI had a set of rules and procedures in place, which they interpreted in a way that suited them. If somebody raised questions, they would say BCCI is a private body, registered under the Societies Act.
It was after the IPL began and massive amounts of money started flowing into their coffers that corruption and vested interests mushroomed. Back in the day, Presidents and officer bearers would serve a term and retire, but now it has come to a point where it seems like they will vacate their positions of authority only after they die.
All these issues and more, highlighted by the media, caused the Supreme Court to sit up and take notice. It was then that the Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee, and subsequently the Justice RM Lodha Committee, were set up to look solely into the administrative functioning of the BCCI .
They uncovered a lot of irregularities in the functioning of the BCCI, and whatever has happened thereafter is in the public domain.
That the BCCI did not qualify as an agency under Article 12 of the Constitution was decided by the Supreme Court more than a decade ago. Do you think that re-opening an already closed chapter was unnecessary overreach?
No, there was no overreach. The Zee Telefilms case was decided by a Division Bench, while the recent case was decided by a Full Bench. Similar issues were raised in the Zee Telefilms case.
You see, it was established law before that once a curative review has been dismissed, you have exhausted all your options. Even though all our channels had been exhausted, the Court has deemed it fit to listen to our case.
In July 2016, a Full Bench passed the order that the Lodha Committee recommendations were not negotiable, and they continue to hear my petitions. Whatever the Supreme Court does, it does so in its wisdom. If you look at precedents, this case shouldn’t have even been heard technically, since a curative review was earlier dismissed.
You cannot question the Supreme Court. It has constitutionally mandated powers, and if there is a problem, they will adjudicate. The Court is doing whatever is best for Indian Cricket. The erstwhile administration was only in it for their vested interests, and never cared about cricket.
There is no freedom of expression in the BCCI, even commentators are tutored as to what to say, and if they don’t toe the line, they are shown the door.
If Deloitte’s audit of the BCCI’s finances was made public, many people would have been behind bars. The report, which was submitted to the Court in a sealed cover, still hasn’t been made public. Now why this is? No one can say or question.
The Supreme Court is not asking for changes in how the sport is played, but only its administration, which according to me, is a good thing.
What are the three most impactful recommendations of the Committee according to you?
One man one post, a fixed tenure for office bearers, and the introduction of transparency in the financials of the board.
You have been represented by top lawyers such as Nalini Chidambaram and Harish Salve. The battle has been a protracted one. How have you managed to fund the litigation?
Nalini Chidambaram is the mother of Indian Cricket. She never charged even a single rupee over all these years. She is deeply committed to the cause.
Similarly, Harish Salve, who represented the Indian government in the Kulbhushan Jadhav trial at the International Court of Justice, and charged one rupee, did not even charge me that .
All he wanted to know was whether I would stay committed and see the matter through without running away. His father, NKP Salve, is a former BCCI President. He got very sentimental while recalling how the Board at the time had no money to give to members of the 1983 World Cup winning team, and how they had to rely on the proceeds of a Lata Mangeshkar concert to raise funds for the team.
After all these years, you are half a lawyer yourself now, I’m sure. Is Aditya Verma the politician a possibility to look out for in the future?
Politics is not for me. I am, however, at the service of Bihar Cricket, and will continue to fight until every youngster has an opportunity to realize their dreams of representing the country without having to leave the state.