New Delhi, May 12: The country’s highest court brought precious relief to the besieged Jagmohan Dalmiya today, saying the Indian cricket board’s crusade against its former chief smacked of “vindictiveness”.
The rap prompted a stunned board and Maharashtra government to quickly back off from their challenge to the anticipatory bail granted to Dalmiya by Bombay High Court in a funds misuse case.
“It is a problem of vindictiveness,” the Supreme Court observed, virtually questioning the motives of the Board of Control for Cricket in India as, at the start of proceedings, it echoed Maharashtra’s plea that the April 10 bail be cancelled.
As the case relates to a criminal offence, it’s being fought by the state.
“BCCI is only a complainant in the case. It has no locus standi. This is too much,” the bench headed by Justice S.B. Sinha said.
Board counsel Nageshwar Rao then submitted he would not oppose the bail granted to Dalmiya and the three other accused ' former board officials S.K. Nair, Kishore Rungta and Jyoti Bajpai.
“I’m happy and elated. The verdict proves that the judiciary in India is still very vibrant and truth will always prevail,” a delighted Dalmiya said in Calcutta.
There was no reaction from the board, with its secretary Niranjan Shah not taking calls.
The BCCI has now suffered back-to-back jolts, with the high court having earlier commented on the lack of material in the case, the haste in which it was filed, and the involvement of a state government in which board chief Sharad Pawar’s party is a partner.
After the apex court jab, the Maharashtra government, too, changed tack and said it would only seek deletion of the adverse comments by the high court.
The Supreme Court issued notices to the four accused seeking their response on the matter.
The state government’s counsel, Harish Salve, argued the high court’s observations had a bearing on the merits of case and could prejudice the trial, to be conducted in a lower court.
On April 10, the high court had noted that at that point of time, there was no material to indicate the accused had embezzled board money.
“(The) brooding omnipotence of the state machinery being available at the disposal of the complainant also cannot be ignored,” the court had said, after the defence argued the case was filed in Maharashtra because its home minister was from Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party.
The high court also said the case seemed to have been filed “hurriedly” without giving Dalmiya reasonable time to refute the charges. It cited the long delay of 10 years between the filing of the complaint by Shah and the alleged misuse of the 1996 World Cup accounts.
Dalmiya was entitled to withdraw the money only to pay the board’s taxes, Shah alleged, but he paid sums of Rs 1.28 crore, Rs 90.75 lakh and Rs 2.73 crore to settle phone, hotel and travel bills, respectively.
The Maharashtra counsel told the apex court that Pawar’s leadership of a ruling coalition partner could not in itself be a ground for the inference the high court had drawn.