New Delhi, April 16: The cat is out of the bag but 12 are still inside.
The Supreme Court today said that a list in a sealed envelope contained the names of N. Srinivasan, who has stepped aside as BCCI chief, and 12 others, including some players of “great reputation”.
But the court said it would not make public the other names because reputations should not be sullied on the basis of what, at this stage, are mere allegations. The charge against Srinivasan was that the allegations against the 12 were brought to his notice but he did not act, the court said.
The list was submitted to the court by the Mukul Mudgal panel that looked into allegations of betting and spot-fixing in the IPL, the latest edition of which began today in Abu Dhabi.
The court turned down the BCCI’s plea to reinstate Srinivasan and asked the board to keep him away from its affairs until the IPL probe was completed.
However, the court has given the BCCI a chance to institute its own probe. The court has reserved its right to order a CBI inquiry or set up a special investigation team (SIT) if the board’s in-house probe is not found satisfactory.
The court also allowed IPL chief operating officer Sundar Raman to continue till the completion of the ongoing IPL.
The bench of Justices A.K. Patnaik and Ibrahim Kalifulla said the list contained the names of 13 key cricketing functionaries.
Justice Patnaik said: “The allegations are very serious, involving people of great reputation. There are allegations against 13 persons. Mr Srinivasan’s name is the last. There are 12 others who are very important in cricket. We don’t want to have their reputation sullied.
“But they (the Mudgal panel) have very fairly said that they are only allegations which need to be verified. We don’t want to sully the reputation. Do we have to give an opportunity (to be heard) by giving you the transcripts and all? It means going to the media.
“We do not want to give it to anybody. If we direct a SIT, it will affect the institutional autonomy…. If the BCCI has to be given autonomy, if things have to be done by the BCCI, Mr Srinivasan shall not be the chief till the probe is completed. IPL is very important.”
The bench said the allegations against Srinivasan in the sealed cover related to his knowledge of alleged wrong-doings by the 12 others and his decision not to take any action.
“All that is said about Mr Srinivasan is that the allegations against 1 to 12 (on the list) have been brought to his notice, but as chief of the BCCI, no action was taken by him. That is the sum and substance of the allegations against him. That means he has not taken the allegations very seriously. That means to his knowledge it (the allegations) has come,” the bench said.
Justice Patnaik, heading the bench, said the BCCI could not insist on accessing transcripts of depositions made before the panel, saying it would only damage the reputation of the persons involved as the media was bound to play it up.
The court asked the board to spell out whether it was willing to set up an in-house probe committee to examine the allegations to avoid the prospects of a CBI or SIT investigation.
The court’s suggestion for an in-house committee was opposed by senior counsel Nalini Chidambaram and Ajit Sinha, who appeared for petitioner Aditya Verma, the secretary of the Cricket Association of Bihar. The counsel contended that they have no faith in the BCCI that had earlier constituted the two-member panel whose report was quashed by Bombay High Court.
As soon as the proceedings that lasted for over an hour started, Justice Patnaik said: “We will require all senior lawyers to observe some restraint. It is a case, not a drama. If you start attacking each other, the media is there to pick it up. Sanctity of court has to be maintained.”
Senior counsel C.A. Sundaram, appearing for the BCCI, said an incumbent president could make way for an interim arrangement only on the grounds of death, insolvency, or conviction by a court.
He urged the court to reinstate Srinivasan as the board’s chief, adding that the allegations levelled against him were baseless and motivated.
But the bench asked: “Is this court bound by the rules of the BCCI? When a matter has been brought before the court, shouldn’t the court hear the matter or make interim arrangement?”
The senior counsel urged the court to provide transcripts of the depositions, including that of Srinivasan and M.S. Dhoni, so that they could respond.
But the court said: “There are some allegations which are very serious. We have to give (those named in the list) an opportunity to be heard. Should it be confined only to Mr Srinivasan or BCCI or include all others?”
Sundaram said the BCCI was in favour of police continuing with the probe.
The court said: “We don’t want CBI to investigate and media to throw mud on cricket players. In the interest of cricket, we don’t want to do it. But if you insist, we will give it (probe) to the CBI. We are not inclined. But if we are compelled, we will do it. We want to save cricket and reputation of cricketers. We will lay down the rules. Don’t protest.”
The bench noted that Sunil Gavaskar, now in charge of the IPL, had said in his report to the court that he was not able to decide on Sundar Raman’s continuance as COO as he is not privy to the investigation report submitted by police to the Mudgal panel.
“We will continue with Mr Sundar Raman till the IPL is over,” the bench said, expressing the hope that the COO would sustain “the trust reposed on him by the court”.
BCCI counsel Sundaram said if the allegations were to be answered, the BCCI should get copies of the depositions.
The court said: “Think and answer. A quick answer will cost your client a lot.”
A lawyer on behalf of Srinivasan then urged the court to adjourn the matter till Tuesday to enable him and Sundaram to seek instructions from their clients.
The court adjourned the matter till Tuesday.