The Supreme Court reserved its order on the 2013 IPL corruption case and the role of sidelined BCCI president N Srinivasan, with the two-man bench of Justice TS Thakur and Justice FM Kalifullah listening to a final round of arguments on Wednesday.
The court goes into its winter break from this weekend and, given that the court opens on January 5, 2015, there is every likelihood that an order will be given only in the new year.
The BCCI had on Tuesday been asked by the court to list the individuals who would be affected should the BCCI's clause 6.2.4 be struck down, as the clause allows "administrators" to have a commercial interest in the IPL and Champions League T20. During the hearing, the BCCI, through counsel CA Sundaram, offered a list of more than a dozen names including six former India players: Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Lalchand Rajput, K Srikkanth, Sourav Ganguly and Venkatesh Prasad. The involvement of these individuals in the IPL and the BCCI pertained to them being involved in either IPL committees like the governing council (Ravi Shastri) or as support-staff roles with franchises along with specific roles in the BCCI's domestic structures.
Citing Ganguly's name, the BCCI said he was a member of the BCCI technical committee as well as a player of the Pune Warriors franchise. At the moment, Ganguly is not an active player in the IPL and the Pune Warriors franchise does not exist any more. He is, however, a commentator to which the bench asked Sundaram, "Does Ganguly play?" It went on to say that Ganguly was using his expertise as a commentator. "He does not have a stake in the match, who wins or loses, he doesn't have a commercial interest in the match."
The role of Srikkanth was also cited with an incomplete fact being provided to the court by the BCCI: Sundaram said that Srikkanth had served as national selector and mentor to Sunrisers Hyderabad. However, the BCCI did not mention that Srikkanth had held the post of a "brand ambassador" of Chennai Super Kings for the first three seasons of IPL, from 2008 to early 2011, while serving as chairman of selectors from September 2008 to September 2012.
Speaking to NDTV, Gavaskar, a former member of the IPL governing council, said he was, "not in anyway connected with the BCCI administration." His position in the governing council, "was an appointed position, it wasn't something you had to fight an election for." He said his last administrative post with the BCCI was, that of "chairmanship of technical committee back in 2008 or 09. I have not been in any committee since then."
There were no additional facts offered about these individuals having either any active commercial stake in the IPL at the same time as playing administrative roles.
The case opened in the morning with CA Sundaram, counsel for the BCCI, saying that the clause 6.2.4 should not be changed as "the possibility of conflict of interest may not be enough to remove a clause". The amended clause, Sundaram said, has offered "benefits" for eight years but "it is only for the first time now this situation has arisen".
The counsel for both Srinivasan and the BCCI kept arguing on the distance maintained between the running of the BCCI and the IPL, with Sibal saying that "no IPL record of any player is considered during the selection of any Indian team at any level." The court then questioned the decision to allow Kris Srikkanth to be selector as well as have a role in the IPL: "How could you possibly allow it? This is contradicting the BCCI's stand that IPL records are not used, not considered by selection by selectors at any level…"
Kapil Sibal, representing sidelined BCCI president N Srinivasan, said the IPL structure "eliminates" all possibility of conflict of interest. He argued that the litigation against Srinivasan was "motivated" and was not in the interest of the public. The motivation was to prevent him "from standing for elections", he said. He argued that the conflict of interest was not a matter of "public policy", but needed to be treated as a "situation" on a case-to-case basis.
Betting and match-fixing, Sibal said, did not "come in after the rule was amended", and cited examples of action taken against players in the past around incidents related to betting. The bench responded by saying that the amended clause had, in fact, "made betting easier" - that, it said, had been one of the findings of the Mudgal committee. The bench said, "Gurunath Meiyappan had access to inside information which enabled him to bet."
Justice Kallifullah said that the BCCI did not have any procedure to deal with conflict of interest but, "The conflict of interest is very deep-rooted." Srinivasan, he said, "Had done so much for cricket, but ultimately your image is tarnished." For the court, the issue was irreconcilable.
Offering a solution for the future, Sibal suggested that an ethics commission, like that found in football's governing body FIFA, could be set up to look into any cases of conflict of interest. That suggestion was countered by Rajeev Dhawan, counsel for IS Bindra, who said all argument around clause 6.2.4 needed to be made taking into account how it stood in the present, and not how it might stand in the future, where "it would be decided by the class of people who are in office currently".
Speaking on behalf of the litigants, the Cricket Association of Bihar counsel, Nalini Chidambaram, said that the BCCI's list of individuals who would be affected should clause 6.2.4 be struck down contained several factual errors, which, she said, would be provided to the court.