The BCCI's annual elections have been postponed to a date not later than January 31, 2015 following a directive from the Supreme Court. The elections were due to be held on December 17, but the BCCI told the court that the elections could not be held until the hearings in the IPL 2013 corruption case were completed.
This is the third time the BCCI elections, originally scheduled to be held before September 30, 2014, have been postponed as there has not been a final decision on the IPL corruption case over the involvement of sidelined BCCI president N Srinivasan.
A two-man bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Justice TS Thakur and FM Kalifullah heard the arguments from counsel representing Srinivasan, BCCI, India Cements Ltd, former Chennai Super Kings official Gurunath Meiyappan and Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra on Wednesday. Given that there are arguments to be made by counsel for IPL COO Sundar Raman as well as the litigants Cricket Association of Bihar, along with interventions that have been permitted by the court, there is a very strong possibility the case could extend into the new year.
The BCCI pleaded with the court asking what could be done about the elections in the course of extended hearings and asked for an order with regard to the elections. Justice Thakur then asked why, on previous two occasions, the BCCI had taken decisions on its own to postpone the elections, but was now seeking a direction of the court. BCCI counsel CA Sundaram replied that it would be "appropriate" as the Registrar of Societies had been given information the last time the elections had been postponed.
As part of his arguments in court today, Srinivasan's counsel Kapil Sibal gave an undertaking, on behalf of his client, that if he were elected president, "till the (proposed) committee suggests the procedure to deal with the issue of conflict of interest, he will not attend any IPL governing council meeting or any other IPL related discussion in any meeting of working committee or general body meeting of the BCCI."
The undertaking handed over to the court also said that the Court's proposed two-member high-powered committee could "suggest sanctions to be imposed, in accordance with applicable IPL rules, on person prima facie found to be involved in the act of betting by the Mudgal panel, besides determining the liability of the franchisees." The "suggestion" refers to the fact that the committee's conclusions would not be binding on the BCCI.
The BCCI also raised its objections to the court's suggestion of a high-powered committee, comprising two former judges independent of the board, to take a decision and also mete out a penalty on the conflict of interest issues around Srinivasan, his son-in-law Gurunath and the Super Kings franchise.
The BCCI argued that the panel would "challenge" the board's "autonomy", as a private body, governed by the Societies Registration Act. The BCCI, Sundaram said, did not want an "external agency" to set its rules. Like in Srinivasan's argument, the board wanted the findings of the high-powered committee to be "suggestions" and "not be binding on the BCCI." The court did not agree with this argument, saying that the BCCI had taken no action on its own and stated that the two judges' decisions could work to "strengthen" the rules of the BCCI.
In response to the fact that the BCCI was a private body, the bench made a precise observation of the current status of the BCCI. The BCCI counsel were asked if the board could whether any other Board could call the team selected by them, 'Team India?' The court said the BCCI had "de facto and de jure monopoly."
"If you have disqualified any person, can he play in any international cricket conducted by ICC? If you have this kind of all-pervasive control, then you are performing a public duty."
The court told the BCCI that the "entire game of cricket and its edifice will collapse" if the BCCI's current "arrangement" was "allowed to continue and if people's confidence in the sport is not restored." The BCCI was asked, "If you (BCCI) fail in your duty, can't we get it corrected? If there is some temptation for a thief to enter, why can't you stop it? Why are you averse to it?"
Sundaram argued that the court could intervene when there was a specific case where public confidence had been dented but not make sweeping changes to the BCCI's private bylaws, to which the bench responded by asking, "So you want us to catch the thief but not plug the scope of future theft?"
In arguing India Cements' case, the company's counsel Mahesh Jethmalani said that the Super Kings franchise should not be penalised for the actions of Gurunath. Jethmalani said that Gurunath was betting in a "personal capacity" and "from home". He also said argued that India Cements has 3000 employees and the company could not keep tabs on what each one did at home. Justice Thakur said: "It doesn't make a difference, betting is betting. You should have ensured you are not surrounded by people who bet."
Siddharth Luthra, counsel for Gurunath said that the court should not "prejudice" Gurunath's criminal trial in Mumbai with its findings. Gurunath was arrested in Mumbai on May 24, 2013 on charges of cheating, forgery and fraud.
When asked repeatedly whether Gurunath was a Super Kings team official, no specific answer was given. Thakur asked him, "Do you want to disclose or not?" to which Luthra said his client had "the right to defence and the right to silence. It is a subject matter of prosecution." Gurunath had also refused to speak to the Mudgal committee on the same grounds, citing the criminal case pending against him in the Bombay High Court.
The hearings for the case will resume on December 15 at 2pm and the court will go into a vacation between December 19 and January 5. Sixteen-and-a-half hours of judicial time have gone into the hearings of this case since the Mudgal committee presented its final report to the Supreme Court in early November.