Srinivasan in Chennai on Tuesday. (PTI)
New Delhi, March 25: Not many T20 matches would have been as spellbinding as an extraordinary event that unfolded in the Supreme Court this morning.
The 30-minute session concluded with a blunt message to BCCI president Narayanswamy Srinivasan: “Why are you still there? It is so nauseatingÖ. The man at the top must go.”
The cricket board has sought time till Thursday to respond to the court’s observation that was made during a hearing on the IPL spot-fixing scandal.
The court also wondered whether the BCCI “managed” a board-appointed panel of retired judges that gave a clean chit to Chennai Super Kings, the IPL team captained by M.S. Dhoni and owned by India Cements that is controlled by Srinivasan. Srinivasan was sucked into the scandal after his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan was arrested on the charge of betting.
Today, the court of Justice A.K. Patnaik, who had last year delivered a landmark judgment that disallowed convicted legislators from continuing in office by filing an appeal in a higher court, and Justice Ibrahim Kalifulla convened at 10.30am.
BCCI counsel C.A. Sundaram stood up.
Sundaram: “We have accepted most of the recommendations.”
(He was referring to the recommendations made by a three-member committee headed by a retired judge, Mukul Mudgal, to cleanse cricket.)
Sundaram: “Although the report had found that some persons had indulged in betting and spot-fixing, nothing had been found to suggest that any insider information had been passed on to others. The report indicated there was betting and violation of the franchise agreements.”
Justice Patnaik: “BCCI rules had been violated. You have not seen the sealed report (which the committee had submitted to the court). Why is this (betting and fixing) happening?”
(The bench added that the reports submitted by a two-member committee of high court judges appointed by the BCCI and the Mudgal panel were at sharp variance. The two-member panel originally had three members but a BCCI nominee, Sanjay Jagdale, quit later.
On a petition by a Bihar cricket official, Bombay High Court had quashed the constitution of the two-member committee, against which the board went to the apex court which formed the Mudgal panel.)
Justice Patnaik: “The two reports are at variance. What do we say of the (two-member) committee’s approach? Can we say it was managed by the BCCI? If so, what is the consequential relief if people have managed the report?”
Sundaram: “There were two retired high court judges in the earlier panel and no member from the BCCI was present in the committee, making it a truly independent panel. The earlier panel could not reach any firm conclusion as it did not have access to any investigation report from the police machinery. The Maharashtra police, despite repeated requests, refused to conduct any investigation.
Justice Patnaik: “You say you have accepted the recommendations. But whether you will accept it (really) is a big question mark. People in control have not taken proper decisions. Otherwise, things could have been controlled.
“The allegations are so serious. The allegations are such that the BCCI cannot be entrusted with the investigations.
“We would not like to damage the institution. But we find that unless the president steps down, no fair investigation can take place. Why are you still there? It is so nauseating.
“In our opinion, he has to step down if allegations are required to be probed. The man at the top must go. If the BCCI wants to have independent and impartial investigations, you (Srinivasan) must go.”
(Justice Kalifulla echoes the opinion.)
Sundaram: “If Srinivasan was asked to go, it will affect the board’s image as he will also be the ICC chief.”
Justice Patnaik: “If you are keen on that (the BCCI’s image), why should you (Srinivasan) not step down? Why don’t you make way for an independent and impartial inquiry. If you don’t step down, we will give our verdict. We will read out the portion.”
(The bench then turned its attention to the sealed report.)
Sundaram: “Please do not make the contents of the report public as the media is present. The media is already writing various things about the alleged involvement of several international players.”
Justice Patnaik: “If you had seen the contents of the sealed report submitted by the Mudgal panel, you would not have been defending Srinivasan in such a forceful manner.”
(The bench asks Sundaram to approach the podium and makes the counsel read the report.)
Justice Patnaik: “The counsel must take an impartial view as an individual after going through the report and not as an advocate of Srinivasan.”
Sundaram: “Please give time till Thursday.”