SC to hear IPL corruption case on March 25
The Supreme Court has deferred to March 25 the hearing on the case relating to corruption in the IPL, including arguments over the findings of the Mudgal Commission report, which was submitted to the court on February 10.
The BCCI, one of the respondents in the case, had requested the court to keep to itself the contents of a sealed envelope handed over by the Mudgal committee to the two-judge bench of AK Patnaik and JS Khehar. The report said the committee had come across "many allegations of sporting fraud" and had forwarded the allegations in the sealed envelope - to be opened and read only by the judges - "in view of the sensitive nature of the information being provided".
The BCCI's submission was that the court not divulge the contents of the envelope as such a step could potentially cause "damage to the "reputation" of cricketers and the BCCI.
"It is most humbly submitted that the material contained in the sealed cover remain with the Hon'ble Court and not be released to the parties," the BCCI's submission said.
"Speculative and baseless charges against leading cricketers have already been made by unscrupulous news channels under the guise of "Sting Operations". Speculation is rife that the sealed cover contains names of some current member of the National Team. The Hon'ble Court would kindly take steps to staunch any further damage to the image under reputation of innocent cricketers and the BCCI by passing appropriate orders and thereby render justice," the BCCI said.
In the 33-page response, the BCCI agreed with the most of the recommendations made by the Mudgal committee. There were two notable objections: One, that the IPL be run as a standalone commercial entity with a governing body formed by franchise representatives, BCCI members, broadcasters and independent professional directors. The BCCI disagreed, saying it was not prudent to have members on the governing body who were not part of the BCCI and who may have "representative interests other than the aims and objectives of the BCCI". Another important recommendation it rejected was to avoid employment of players by the companies owning the franchises they played for.
The three-member committee, led by former High Court judge Mukul Mudgal, concluded that Gurunath Meiyappan, son-in-law of N Srinivasan, BCCI president and owner of Chennai Super Kings, had indulged in betting and passing information during matches in last year's IPL as alleged. The inquiry panel also said that Meiyappan was actually part of the Super Kings franchise at the time and not just an "enthusiast" as claimed by Srinivasan.
The panel also pulled up Raj Kundra, a co-owner in the Rajasthan Royals franchise, for "resorting to" placing bets through a bookie, who had made statements to a Delhi court earlier.
Last July, a two-member BCCI-appointed panel comprising a pair of retired judges (T Jayaram Chouta and R Balasubramanian) had found "no evidence of any wrongdoing" on the part of Gurunath and Kundra. However, the Mudgal panel pointed out that the question of whether or not Gurunath had been involved in match-fixing and spot-fixing "not been investigated thoroughly" by the anti-corruption units of the ICC and the BCCI or the Crime Branch Criminal Investigation Department of the Chennai police, "even though some information was available for such an investigation to be conducted."
Gurunath had already admitted to betting in his statement to the Mumbai Police, which had originally arrested him last year. His recorded statement was part of the Mumbai Police chargesheet. The audiotapes have not been submitted to the court yet because they have gone for forensic testing.
The other two members of the Mudgal panel are additional solicitor general L Nageswara Rao and Assam Cricket Association member Nilay Dutta. The panel was set up by the Supreme Court in October 2013 to conduct an independent inquiry into the allegations of corruption against Gurunath, the Super Kings team owner India Cements, and Rajasthan Royals team owner Jaipur IPL Cricket Private Ltd, as well as with the larger mandate of allegations around betting and spot-fixing in IPL matches and the involvement of players.
The case dates back to last June when the Cricket Association of Bihar secretary Aditya Verma raised charges of conflict of interest in the formation of BCCI's two-member inquiry panel. A Bombay High Court ruling later termed the probe panel "illegal". The BCCI and the CAB filed petitions in the Supreme Court against this order, with the CAB contending that the Bombay High Court could have suggested a fresh mechanism to look into the corruption allegations.
Story updated on March 7 to reflect SC's decision to defer the hearing
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo