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BCCI probe panel as good as hit for a six

- SC looking to put justice mudgal on the job again
Justice M. Mudgal

New Delhi: The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) proposed, the Supreme Court disposed, that is how Tuesday’s developments could be summed up.

The chaotic scenario that Indian cricket finds itself in took a fresh turn as the Supreme Court sought the Justice Mukul Mudgal committee’s willingness to conduct further probe into the IPL betting/spot-fixing allegations, with the aid of other investigating agencies. As a result, BCCI’s proposed panel of Justice (retd) Jai Narayan Patel, former CBI director RK Raghavan and former India captain Ravi Shastri, now virtually stands shelved.

Instead, the stage is set for coming Tuesday, when the apex court is expected to give the charge of further investigations to the Mudgal committee.

L. Nageswar Rao and Nilay Dutta are the other members the Justice Mudgal panel.

A bench of Justices Ananga Kumar Patnaik and Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla said that it would pass the necessary orders on Tuesday, subject to the willingness of the Mudgal committee to conduct further inquiry into the allegations.

Justice Mudgal, speaking to The Telegraph, said that he has indicated the committee’s willingness to conduct further probe and the same has been communicated through former solicitor-general Gopal Subramanium, who on Tuesday appeared in the court on behalf of the committee.

“Yes, we have expressed our willingness to conduct further probe, but it is for the court to decide. We have given our consent. The court will pass the necessary orders on Tuesday,” Mudgal said, adding that he does not want to speak anything more on the matter.

Besides strong opposition to the BCCI-suggested panel from the petitioner, the Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB), the apex court’s decision to repose its confidence in the Mudgal committee also stemmed from the fact that neither the Board nor its effectively-suspended president Narayanswamy Srinivasan, had expressed any apprehension of bias against the committee members.

The Mudgal committee had not only indicted Gurunath Meiyappan and several others in its preliminary report, it had also furnished to the apex court in a sealed cover, names of 13 persons with “great cricketing reputation” of being allegedly involved in the betting rackets. They had, however, said that since the allegations are unverified, it should be investigated further.

The apex court, while reserving its order for Tuesday, however, permitted the BCCI and Srinivasan to have access to the copies of the audio tapes and transcripts pertaining to the depositions made before the panel by Srinivasan, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and IPL’s chief operating officer Sundar Raman.

The apex court asked the committee to furnish copies of the audio tapes recorded between November 5, 2013 to January 6, 2014. The BCCI and Srinivasan, through their counsel CA Sundaram and Mukul Rohatgi, had sought the audio tapes for preparing their defence in the matter.

Incidentally, Subramanium told the court during the hearing that the probe committee had stopped recordings after January 6, 2014, after it came to light that “some persons were trying to compromise by giving copies of the audio tapes to some outsiders.” He, however, did not elaborate on the matter.

The court also made it clear that under no circumstances the copies of the audio tapes should be leaked.

“If it goes out, a lot of damage will be done to many players,” Justice Patnaik told Sundaram.

“If anything (the audio tapes) goes out, cricket will be black. Will you take the responsibility? But that assurance must come on behalf of the BCCI. That you must give, otherwise we will straightaway haul up for contempt,” the bench told Sundaram.

Earlier, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the CAB, opposed the BCCI-suggested panel saying “all the three members have conflict of interest”.

Asked by the bench as to what was his suggestion, Singhvi said that the matter should be handled by some investigating agency in the form of a SIT or the CBI. But the court brushed aside the suggestion .

“Police, we are not inclined… They (police) are very badly maintained. CBI, also, we feel is badly maintained,” Justice Patnaik said.

When Singhvi said that Justice Patel is the brother-in-law of Shivlal Yadav, the court asked: “How does it matter? There is nothing against Shivlal Yadav.”

The counsel reasoned that since Shivlal is currently in charge of the non-IPL matters of the Board, it would not be proper to appoint his brother-in-law. But the court said: “So what? Shivlal Yadav’s name is not there in the sealed cover. How does it make a difference? What if we have confidence? Just because somebody does not want him, should we not consider him?”

The counsel responded saying that while they do not question the integrity of Justice Patel, former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, yet the BCCI could have suggested some other judge as there are a number of other eminent judges in the country.

Singhvi then said that even the third suggested member, Raghavan, has admitted that he was involved with the Kamyuth Club in Chennai, which is affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association. Besides, he had also deposed before the Mudgal panel as a witness.

Panel’s counsel Subramanium said that some of the top cricketers had deposed before the panel on assurance of absolute confidentiality and that any attempt to make public the contents of the deposition would not be advisable.

Subramanium also said that “the committee felt inhibited by the absence of any investigating agency to assist it” and hence could not proceed further in the matter.

It was at this stage that the court asked: “Why don’t you then take up the task (probe) again?”

The counsel said that he would have to seek instruction from the committee. The court initially asked Subramanium to respond to its suggestion by 2pm on the day. But at 2.15pm, the court told a junior counsel of Subramanium that the latter can appear before it on Tuesday morning and give the Mudgal committee’s willingness or otherwise, after which it would pass the necessary orders.

When BCCI counsel CA Sundaram wanted to make certain submissions regarding the audio tapes, Justice Kalifulla cut him short saying: “Are you representing the BCCI or Srinivasan? If you have any grievance of your organisation, tell us, but not of any other office-bearers. Please don’t mix up Srinivasan and the BCCI.”

The court also brushed aside the counsel’s submission that the media may somehow get a scent of the depositions as the audio were recorded in a hotel in Chennai, indicating that the staff there might also be in possession of it.

He said the court should restrain the media from publishing any contents of the depositions.

But the court declined to do so, saying: “They are not publishing. They don’t know anything. How can we pass any such blanket order?”