Bihar's appeal a fresh legal hurdle for Srinivasan
In a move that could further delay the return of N Srinivasan as the active BCCI president, the Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB) has filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court verdict of July 30. The High Court had ruled that the BCCI had violated its own rules in the formation of the inquiry commission investigating the corruption allegations against Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals and their owners, and the CAB contended in its petition that the High Court could have recommended an alternative method of investigation.
On August 7, the BCCI had filed its own SLP in the Supreme Court against the High Court judgment. In its 13-page SLP, the BCCI contested the High Court order, asking how the CAB's public interest petition could have been entertained when the Indian board was a private body.
The two-judge bench of Justices AK Patnaik and Jagdish Singh Khehar had asked CAB to file their reply by August 29. However in the wake of CAB's SLP, the hearing has been pushed back by a day and will be heard now on Friday. The CAB's SLP, filed on August 17, sought no interim relief.
The CAB's main contention in its SLP is that the High Court, having established that the BCCI had broken its own rules in setting up an investigation, could have suggested a fresh mechanism to look into the corruption allegations. The BCCI's inquiry had cleared Gurunath Meiyappan, who is Srinivasan's son-in-law, and Raj Kundra and the two franchises they were part of, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals.
In their 61-page order, High Court Justices SJ Vazifdar and MS Sonak had said that although it could not be firmly established, there was a "degree of involvement" of Srinivasan in setting up the original three-man probe commission.
In the SLP, the CAB asked, "whether the High Court, having found that the constitution of the Commission was not in accordance with the Rules and Regulations of Respondent No. 1 (BCCI), and having acknowledged that a key focus of the probe panel was a close relative of Respondent No.2 (Srinivasan), was right in refraining from suggesting a fail-proof mechanism to enquire into the facts leading to the publicly known allegations?"
During the High Court hearing, the BCCI legal counsel had argued strongly that the inquiry was set up under the IPL's Operational Rules. However, the judges had concluded that the BCCI had broken rule 2.2, which made it mandatory that at least one member of the IPL Code of Behaviour committee sat on the probe panel.
The CAB's lawyers also argued that they filed the SLP because the "reputation" of BCCI was at stake, and that the IPL scandal wasn't merely a question of disciplinary problems.
"…the High Court failed to appreciate that the IPL Operational Rules are only concerned with breaches of discipline that affect the IPL. The present matter deals with alleged violations that, if enquired properly, would likely bring into question various broader issues, such as the integrity of players (who may, after the IPL season, play under the India banner), nexus between administrators of the Board, administrators of IPL teams and players, and various other factors that have led to the sharp reputational crisis that faces Respondent No.1 today," the SLP said.
The important ground listed in the CAB SLP dealt with the powers given to the BCCI president whenever a probe committee is set up. "The relevant power is available under Rule 32, which on a reading makes it clear that the President of Respondent No.1 (BCCI) must lead such enquiry as the appointing authority, overseeing authority and the authority to whom such enquiry commission's report is to be submitted. In the present matter, given that the enquiry relates in large measure to the role of a close relative of Respondent No.2 (Srinivasan) who is also the de-facto President, and the team belonging to Respondent No.3 (India Cements) in which he is a key shareholder and Director, it is not possible to hold an enquiry that both appears and also is fair and transparent," the SLP said.
Although the BCCI was tight-lipped about the latest events, the Supreme Court order will carry a lot of significance. A decision favouring Srinivasan would facilitate his taking over as president immediately, ending the brief reign of the interim BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya.
However, any delay in the court proceedings is likely to have an impact on Srinivasan's tenure as the president. Under normal circumstances, Srinivasan would have officially sought the constitutionally allowed one-year extension (till September 2014) to his time as president at the board's AGM on September 30, but that will be under a cloud if his legal problems aren't cleared by then.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo