BCCI's sidelined president N Srinivasan told the Supreme Court on Monday that all allegations against him with reference to his "conflict of interest" in the IPL corruption case were unfounded and false. His counsel, Kapil Sibal, told the two-member bench of Justice TS Thakur and Justice FM Kalifullah that Srinivasan had acted "with speed" against his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan after allegations of illegal betting and had stepped aside from the affairs of the BCCI during the investigations into the corruption scandal.
Once the litigant, Cricket Association of Bihar, made their final arguments, Srinivasan's defence of his actions covered several aspects. These included the purchase of an IPL team, acting against Gurunath during IPL 2013, distancing himself from the BCCI probe as well as not being responsible for the composition of the BCCI's own two-man probe committee.
Sibal said that allegations against Srinivasan, concerning a cover-up of the investigation, were "false" as Srinivasan had acted with speed, lodging a complaint against both Gurunath and Raj Kundra when allegations of betting were made against them.
The name of Arun Jaitley, a BCCI vice president and currently Union cabinet minister was taken several times by Sibal to emphasise that the BCCI had set up a commission to look into the corruption case in May 2013 on Jaitley's recommendation. When Jaitley's name was taken a third time, Justice Thakur asked Sibal, "Why are you taking his name?" and enquired whether Jaitley was being "represented" in the case in any manner as his name had not been mentioned in the entire set of Mudgal Commission report documents handed over to the court in February and November 2014. Thakur said it was "not permitted" that the name of "one individual is being dropped."
When Sibal argued that the conflict of interest issue had not been part of the terms of reference of the Mudgal committee investigation, Justice Thakur responded by saying: "Either there is a conflict of interest or there is no conflict of interest. There is no third truth." He said the conflict of interest was, "the core issue" and Srinivasan's counsel Sibal had to, "show" the court that there was "no conflict of interest from the facts before the Mudgal report."
Sibal told the court that there were, "several people" who held positions in the BCCI and were also involved with the IPL. He said there were "364 names" and cited those of Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Lalchand Rajput, Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Sourav Ganguly, Brijesh Patel, Anil Kumble as well as Vijay Mallya who were part of the IPL in the last seven years. "The IPL may not even take place if the rule is to be interpreted in this manner," Sibal said.
The rule being referred to was rule 6.2.4 which that prohibits officials of the BCCI from having any direct or interest commercial interest in the events conducted by the Board, with the exception of the IPL and the Champions League T20. Sibal said the rule applied to, "administrator, official player or umpire."
With Sibal stressing that Srinivasan had kept away from the internal developments pertaining to Gurunath and the IPL case, Justice Kalifullah raised questions about the incomplete paper work made available to the court regarding the formation of the BCCI's own probe panel set up in May last year. There were no dates mentioned on the documents made available to the court about the formation of the BCCI probe panel. Justice Kalifullah asked the counsel to inform the court about the time taken to form the BCCI's disciplinary probe panel and the time taken by the panel to arrive at their final conclusions.
On May 31, 2013, three days after the BCCI revealed its probe commission, one of the members, Sanjay Jagdale, resigned from his post as BCCI secretary and stated he had specifically asked to be kept away from the committee. On June 2, it was discovered that two members of the eight-man IPL governing council were unaware of when and how the BCCI's inquiry commission was set up. Two other members of the council said their consent had been taken over the phone even though no meeting had been convened over the same. In July 2013, the board's two-member panel found "no evidence of any wrongdoing" against Raj Kundra and India Cements.
Sibal argued that Srinivasan's purchase of Chennai Super Kings came about after former IPL chairman Lalit Modi asked him to do so because there were not enough buyers lined up for the city-based franchises. Srinivasan had, therefore, Sibal said, turned to the-then BCCI president Sharad Pawar. Sibal argued that Pawar had "cleared the legalities" for Srinivasan and informed him that as India Cements was a private company, Srinivasan could make a bid for a team.
The Supreme Court has asked the BCCI to submit financial details with regards to the functioning of the IPL, the auction, ticket sales, broadcasting rights and purchase of players.
When asked whether the IPL case had affected the image of Indian cricket, Srinivasan, who was speaking at an ICC event in Chennai, said: "I don't agree that Indian cricket is taking a hit, I am not able to share your sentiments on that."
The next two hearings will be held on December 8 and 9, when Sibal is expected to conclude his arguments.