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March 27, 2014
Bal: It all boils down to conflict of interest
The Supreme Court has proposed sweeping changes to the BCCI, including replacing N Srinivasan as the board's chief with Sunil Gavaskar or a "seasoned or respected cricketer" and suspending Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals from the IPL. The suggestions were made to the BCCI counsel during hearing of the case on Thursday; the board has been asked to reply to the proposals on Friday, after which the court will issue an interim order.
The court also proposed that employees of India Cements, of which Srinivasan is managing director and which owns Super Kings, should be kept out of the BCCI set-up.
At its last hearing, on March 25, the court had effectively given Srinivasan an ultimatum to step down by today or risk being removed by it. At Thursday's hearing it did not pass any explicit order to this effect but came up with the sweeping set of proposals.
At the start of the hearing, which went on for more than two hours, BCCI counsel CA Sundaram said it would implement the recommendations of the Mudgal Committee and submitted a closed envelope containing the board's response to the Supreme Court's observations of Tuesday. The judges read the proposals, set them aside and asked for the arguments to be presented to them.
Counsel for Cricket Association of Bihar - whose petition in 2013 had led to this hearing - Harish Salve's arguments took up most of the session, with him recommending termination of the Super Kings and Royals franchises. One line of Salve's argument dwelt on India captain MS Dhoni and his response to the Mudgal committee about the role of Gurunath Meiyappan, Srinivasan's son-in-law, in Super Kings. The Mudgal committee's report states: "Mr MS Dhoni, Mr N Srinivasan and officials of India Cements took the stand that Mr Meiyappan had nothing to do with the cricketing affairs of Chennai Super Kings and was a mere cricket enthusiast supporting Super Kings."
Salve said that in denying any knowledge of Gurunath's role in Super Kings, "the Indian cricket captain has been indulging in corrupt conduct". He also named the India Cements employees who held positions in the BCCI. The judges were surprised to learn that Dhoni also happened to be a vice-president of India Cements and were presented with documentary proof of Dhoni's appointment.
At one point during the argument, Justice Patnaik asked Salve - whose father NKP Salve was a BCCI president in the 1980s - for his opinion on whether the court had legal standing "restructuring" an autonomous body like the BCCI. It is believed that Salve said he would respond in writing.
According to a BCCI insider the BCCI's line, in its brief arguments today, was that Srinivasan would not "voluntarily step aside" but would relieve himself of duties as the board president. The BCCI counsel also told the court that they were open to an independent, time-bound investigation during which Srinivasan would not discharge functions as a president.
Reacting to the news of his name being mentioned as a replacement for Srinivasan, Gavaskar said: "When the highest court of the land tells you to do something, you have to do it."
Gavaskar pointed out that he was contracted to BCCI TV as a commentator but said that he would step in if the court, even after that, asked him to do so. "As an opening batsman you have to be mentally and physically ready for any challenge," he said.
The dramatic events of the past two days forced the BCCI to push back its IPL preparations. A media conference scheduled in Abu Dhabi on Thursday afternoon for the IPL launch was postponed as soon as the court proposals became public.
The case dates back to June 2013 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 into the IPL corruption issue. 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.
The Supreme Court then appointed a three-member committee, headed by former High Court judge Mukul Mudgal and comprising additional solicitor general L Nageswara Rao and Assam Cricket Association member Nilay Dutta, in October 2013, to conduct an independent inquiry into the allegations of corruption against Srinivasan's son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, 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 committee had submitted its findings to the court on February 10.
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