The decision also means that the four-member supervisory committee, headed by Justice (retd) NA Kakru, which was tasked last year with the job of resolving issues in the HCA, has been eased out.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Manoj Misra and Aravind Kumar, hearing the Hyderabad Cricket Association vs Charminar Cricket Club case, said that the impasse surrounding the pendency of elections in the cricket association must come to an end. The bench also said the elections must be held in a fair manner.
“We are of the view that the impasse must come to an end and a fair election be held. This court is of the view that Justice Nageswara Rao, a retired judge of this court, would be suitable to be appointed to head a single-member committee to sort out this mess,” the bench ordered.
The Supreme Court also directed the HCA to extend all assistance to Justice Rao. “He can take all the assistance as needed. The expenses will be borne by the association. If the learned judge needs some directions from this court, the matter can be placed before us for the limited purpose,” the order said.
The matter will be heard next on March 2, 2023.
The apex court was hearing a case in which the HCA had appointed Justice Deepak Verma, former Supreme Court judge, as its ombudsman and ethics officer but the move had run into trouble. The matter came to the top court after some cricket clubs challenged a Telangana High Court order upholding Justice Verma’s appointment.
On August 22, 2022, the court appointed a supervisory committee to look into the allegations and counter allegations by both the warring groups in the HCA and resolve the issue . However, the committee was unable to ‘work together’ as the other three members – Anjani Kumar, Vanka Pratap and SL Venkatapathi Raju – were not on the same page with chairman Justice Kakru.
Last month, the supervisory committee had filed a report in the apex court but it was signed only by three of the four members. Justice Kakru did not sign it, which the court took notice of. The 21-page report stated several issues plaguing the HCA and sought 16 weeks’ time to complete its enquiry into all the issues mentioned, address them with appropriate solutions and present a full report to the Supreme Court.
The SC bench, on Tuesday, was dealing with applications in the matter seeking timely conduct of election. Senior advocate Jayant Bhushan pointed out that the election has not been conducted even though the 3-year-term of the apex council had ended in September last year. He submitted that Mohd Azharuddin was running the association with the help of one or two other people.
When the bench said some method of conducting elections has to be devised, senior advocate Siddhartha Dave suggested the name of Justice Rao. “We suggest that the elections be conducted under the aegis of Justice L Nageswara Rao, he is from Hyderabad; he can fix the electoral college etc,” Dave said.
Bhushan said, “If there are several persons and he is one in a committee, that might not be acceptable to him. But if he is the only person, he is willing.”
Then the bench appointed Justice Rao. All signing powers were also assigned to the retired judge. After dictating the order, Justice Kaul remarked, “We have given all power to him, but please assist him. Do not leave the entire burden on him.”
The bench also clarified that the supervisory committee will no longer survive.
During the hearing the court also added that there are complaints from several sports associations, but it cannot monitor all sports bodies. “Every association of sports is litigating instead of doing sports,” remarked Justice Kaul.
This is Justice Rao’s second such stint, having earlier supervised the process of finalising an electoral college for the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). Justice Rao is still overseeing the finalisation of IOA’s new draft constitution.