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SC reserves order onconstituting panel

Our Legal Correspondent New Delhi: The “Modi mania” found its resonance in the Supreme Court on Tuesday and it provided some mirth!

The apex court wondered whether it was BJP’s Narendra Modi or former IPL chairman-cum-commissioner Lalit Modi, behind the beleaguered Board of Cricket for Control in India (BCCI) strongman Narayanswamy Srinivasan’s ouster campaign.

The poser, though in a lighter vein, by the Supreme Court, on a day it reserved its verdict on entrusting further probe into the IPL scandal, may give little solace to BCCI which opposed any further investigations by the Mukul Mudgal panel saying its earlier findings were “ex facie erroneous.”

The court reserved its order on the constitution of a probe panel to examine contents of the sealed cover after former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium, on behalf of the Mudgal panel, expressed its willingness to conduct further investigations.

He said the committee wanted the assistance of former CBI director Manohar Lal Sharma and officers drawn from the Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai police to conduct the investigations. But Sharma’s name was opposed by the BCCI on the ground that he had passed an “adjudicatory order” against it in some earlier matter.

Instead, the BCCI harped on its own in-house panel and tried to insist that at least ex-Calcutta High Court judge Jai Narayan Patel and former India captain Ravi Shastri should be considered as members of an alternative panel.

Since the third member R K Raghavan, a former CBI director, had admitted his affiliation with the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association, the BCCI said it was willing to drop his name.

But the persuasion by senior BCCI counsel Chetpet Aryama Sundaram for the BCCI’s in-house panel failed to convince the apex court, which during the hearing also indicated “serious consequences” could follow and it would be in “BCCI’s interest” that contents of the sealed cover are not made public.

In other words, the court hinted that contents, if made public, could dent the image of several bigwigs in the BCCI.

The bench of Justices Ananga Kumar Patnaik and Ibrahim Kalifulla said it would not be proper to make it public, until it gives it findings.

“It is in your interest BCCI, we should not read out (sealed cover). Let it be in the form of allegations and wait for the findings,” Justice Patnaik, heading the bench, told Sundaram.

The bench made the observation after BCCI counsel and another senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi appearing for Srinivasan said they had gone through the transcripts of the submissions made by the latter, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Gurunath Meiyappan, before the Mudgal panel and they were not in any manner incriminating.

It was submitted that the transcripts were contrary to the allegations made by the petitioner, Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB), that Srinivasan and Dhoni had misled the panel that Gurunath was a “mere cricket enthusiast” and did not discharge any key function in the Chennai Super Kings.

The counsel claimed that Srinivasan and Dhoni did not, at any point in time, say that Gurunath was a mere cricket enthusiast.

The two counsel also said that they were opposed to the continuance of the Mudgal panel to probe the contents of the sealed cover, earlier submitted by the committee, containing serious allegations against 13 powerful and popular personalities connected to cricket.

Sundaram said the BCCI wanted a new separate entity. To that the court asked: “Separate entity means?”

The counsel responded by saying: “We want new persons in the panel. As far as Mr Patel (Justice Jai Narayan) is concerned there is no objection. Ravi Shastri has a contractual agreement like Sunil Gavaskar. So he is on the same footing. “

Yes, R K Raghavan himself said he has some sort of affiliation with the TNCA. Ex-facie the earlier report (Mudgal) was erroneous,” Sundaram said.

However, the bench was not agreeable to the suggestion and countered: “Do you know what is in the sealed cover? Why should it instead go to some new hands? We have to maintain confidentiality. Thereafter, you can challenge it. “

You want us to do it (reveal)? Very serious consequences will follow. We want to maintain secrecy,” the bench said.

The BCCI counsel said corruption was prevalent all over the world of sport. “It cannot be fully eliminated, but it can be minimised,” he said. “

The petitioner is a motivated person. He is not a member of the BCCI. We know who these people are. They are (AC) Muthiah and Mr Modi,” Sundaram told the court.

It was then the court observed, amidst laughter: “Which Modi you are talking about? You have to be clear!”

Srinavan’s counsel Mukul Rohatgi said: “It is not our country’s Modi, but the other Modi (Lalit).”

Another senior counsel, Ashok Desai, on behalf of Rajasthan Royals wanted to make some submissions, but the court said: “There are something probably against you also in the sealed cover.”

When Sundaram said Srinivasan had spent crores of rupees from his own pocket for promoting cricket and IPL, Nalini Chidambaram asked the court whether the former was appearing for BCCI or Srinivasan. “

Is he appearing for the BCCI or Mr Srinivasan?” she asked. Thereafter the court reserved its order on the constitution of a probe panel to conduct further probe into the the contents of the sealed cover.

The Mudgal panel, through its counsel Gopal Subramanium, assured the court that it would submit a report in four months. But the BCCI wanted the report to be expedited in three months as its AGM was scheduled in September.