Courtrooms can be an interesting place to be in, especially if your stakes are not personal and the judgment does not affect the way you see and live in the world. Since the drama that has been unfolding in the Supreme Court is not a question of life and death for the people involved, it can make the garrulous lawyers and the pleasure they draw from listening to their own rhetoric, a comical interlude before the judges pass their judgment.
For the past two years or so, the Supreme Court has been hearing all sorts of arguments for and against the cricket board’s malfunctioning that impacts the most popular sport in the country. In this long drawn affair that reminds one of the days of the timeless Test matches, the chief justice of the country, Justice Thakur, who has now retired, passed an order, that was as emphatic as any judgment can be. Implement the Lodha recommendations in toto, was what was said, without ambiguity.
One year has passed since then and there has still not been any closure. The judgment of the former Chief Justice of India, who accepted the recommendations of another former Chief Justice, has not been respected so far! What has transpired instead is not only intriguing but even disturbing: the Indian Board has continued to mock the judgment.
One must admire the patience of the three-member bench, which is now headed by chief justice designate Justice Deepak Mishra, that they have so far refrained from passing a harsh order that could even entail the arrest of some board officials. A court order, unless not stayed, becomes the law of the land and its defiance is unheard of. I am not sure whether there is any precedence of a Supreme Court order, whose review and curative petition too has been dismissed, not being implemented even after a year has elapsed.
In the last hearing the three judges hearing the case did appear a bit disturbed at this defiance but at the same time left a window open for some changes.
It told the board to implement the recommendations barring those which are not practical. On its part, it showed willingness to review the order of one vote-one state, making bodies like the Railways associate members and reducing selectors to three, from five. The order, after mentioning these points, also added ‘‘etc, etc’ and that is what the board has latched on to and has now added the cooling off period, age cap, reducing the number of members in the apex body, to its list of what is not practical to implement.
An outraged Justice Lodha has called this an amputation of the main organs of the body. He has clearly implied that the points that the board says can’t be implemented are the sum and substance of the reforms that will make the board functioning transparent, accountable and not be held hostage to vested interests. Even a layman, not aware of the intricacies of the law, has been left wondering how a set of people can get away with not following the court’s orders.
Is there a method to their madness or are they playing with fire? Justice Mishra will in all probability be the Chief Justice of India when he resumes hearing of the case. He is the man who has made the whole of India stand up in cinema halls, making the playing of the National Anthem mandatory before the start of a show. One presumes he will make the board fall in line as well without any further delay.