The uncertainty over the Board of Control for Cricket in India's Annual General Meeting later this month seems to be "man-made". The Board will be majorly flouting its own constitution if the all-important meeting is not held by September 30.
According to legal experts, the presence of N. Srinivasan, who has been stood down by the Supreme Court as BCCI president in the wake of the 2013 IPL betting and fixing scandal, is not mandatory to hold a meeting. Key members in the BCCI executive committee seems to be misinterpreting the Supreme Court order and the Board's Memorandum and rules and regulation in force since September 15, 2012.
Reportedly, worried Srinivasan loyalists are informally meeting in Chennai on Sunday to explore ways to put off the AGM and ensure that Srinivasan can contest a third term. Srinivasan's one-year extension is coming to an end this month but he is eligible for another term if he is nominated by East Zone, whose turn it is to elect the BCCI president.
Soon after a special Supreme Court Bench refused to reinstate Srinivasan as BCCI president on September 1, several "senior" BCCI officials have been quoted in various reports leading to confusion over the AGM's status. Interestingly, not a single report mentions the name of the "senior" officials. Most reports suggest the AGM cannot be held because Srinivasan is not available.
"This is utter nonsense. When there is a rule book, why is the media quoting officials who don't want to be identified? The BCCI is bigger than an individual but it seems a large group of people will do anything to break rules to accommodate a man under investigation," said Usha Nath Banerjee, the Board's former legal advisor.
According to the BCCI constitution Rule No. 16, "the Annual General Meeting of the Board shall be held every year, but not later than 30th September at such place and time the president may fix." Rule No. 16 M (v) states that "the secretary shall at least 21 days prior to the date fixed for the meeting, forward to each member, notice setting out the agenda of business to be transacted at the AGM."
Effectively, Board secretary Sanjay Patel has to send out the AGM notice by September 9 (Tuesday). "There is no provision to put off the AGM. The argument that Srinivasan must sign the annual accounts is not sacrosanct," explained Banerjee, adding that interim president Shivlal Yadav has been given all the powers by the Supreme Court to run the daily affairs of the BCCI.
Banerjee says it is not mandatory that annual accounts have to be approved by the working committee or the president. Clause 13D of the constitution says the BCCI treasurer can directly place the audited statement of accounts at the AGM. Ruled 13B also states that the secretary can himself only call the AGM in consultation with the president. "This means Patel and Shivlal Yadav can jointly call the AGM. There is no need for Srinivasan to take charge," explained Banerjee.
Sunday's meeting in Chennai seems to be a closed door affair of Srinivasan loyalists. Sources say that at least 20 members are expected to attend in a show of solidarity to the Tamil Nadu businessman, who is now the chairman of the newlook ICC.
In 2004, the BCCI AGM had to be reconvened due to litigation. Jagmohan Dalmiya's appointment as Patron-in-chief was questioned by Chennai-based Netaji Cricket Club. "That was a different scenario altogether. The postponement was due to a High Court order. How can the BCCI postpone the AGM because Srinivasan has been suspended by the Supreme Court?" argued Banerjee.
The BCCI is registered under the Tamil Nadu Society of Registration Act. Srinivasan loyalists could appeal to the Madras High Court to stall the meeting citing balance sheet technicalities. Preempting such a move, the Cricket Association of Bihar, the petitioners in the IPL scandal case, has already submitted a letter to the Inspector General of Registration appealing that the AGM should not be postponed. A copy of the letter has also been sent to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa and Shivlal Yadav.
Interestingly, the BCCI has a number of legal luminaries and political heavyweights among its senior members. One such member is former BCCI president Shashank Manohar, who till last year was in the anti-Srinivasan camp. Interestingly, the anti-Srinivasan lobby has been rather quiet. The coming week will be interesting as the deadline to send the 21-day notice for the AGM is fast approaching.