The Bombay High Court has said that the BCCI's two-member committee that investigated and subsequently cleared the owners of the Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings IPL franchises was constituted illegally. The BCCI, it said, will have to investigate the matter afresh.
"The entire incident needs to be reinvestigated," the High Court said, according to PTI. "There was disparity in the evidence collected by the probe panel."
One of the petitioners, Naresh Mahtani, said the court's focus was on the formation of the inquiry committee and it clearly found that it was not set up according to the BCCI's constitution. "So whatever report has been passed over the last two days is technically null and void," Mahtani said.
His lawyer, Ameet Naik, said the petition - filed on June 21 by the Cricket Association of Bihar and its secretary, Aditya Verma - raised several issues of conflict of interest and the manner in which the probe panel was constituted. He said the BCCI's reply to the court was not able to explain how and whether the probe panel was set up in accordance with its own constitution. "The formation of the panel is not according to the [BCCI] constitution and therefore everything must follow from there," Naik said.
He said the petition had sought a fresh panel to be set up but clarified that the court had not granted that plea. The BCCI can appeal the court order once it receives the text of the High Court order. One of its options is appealing to the Supreme Court. The court has left it to the BCCI to set up a fresh probe panel, though it is not under any compulsion to do so.*
The court's findings - delivered by a bench comprising justices SJ Vazifdar and MS Sonak - come two days after the committee submitted its report, which essentially cleared Super Kings owner India Cements, Royals co-owner Raj Kundra and Royals parent company Jaipur IPL Pvt Ltd of "wrongdoing". "There is no evidence of any wrongdoing found by the judges against Raj Kundra, India Cements and Rajasthan Royals," Niranjan Shah, a BCCI vice-president, had said after the BCCI's working committee meeting in Kolkata. The final decision on the matter was supposed to have been taken at the IPL's governing council meeting on August 2.
Concerns about the panel were raised soon after its constitution on May 28, and have remained since given the BCCI's inconsistent explanations and statements. On May 26, at a press conference in Kolkata hours before the IPL final, Srinivasan had said that the probe panel would look into allegations against his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, a top Super Kings official, as well as the Rajasthan Royals players accused of spot-fixing, and would comprise an independent member and two out of a group of five people: the then-BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale, the then-treasurer Ajay Shirke, the then-IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla, BCCI vice-president and IPL governing council member Arun Jaitley, and IPL governing council member Ravi Shastri.
On May 28, the BCCI issued a press release which stated that the IPL governing council had appointed the panel consisting of two retired judges from Tamil Nadu, T Jayaram Chouta and R Balasubramanian, and Jagdale. It was learnt that that of the eight-man IPL governing council, two members had no idea about when and how the panel had been constituted while two other members had given their consent over the phone. Former BCCI chief IS Bindra had then claimed that the panel had been appointed by an "operations" committee which did not consist of a single governing council member, but two members of the IPL's logistics team, an official of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association who was the lawyer that accompanied Gurunath to Mumbai when he was summoned by the police, and a BCCI official.
When Jagdale resigned his post he was not replaced on the panel, the three members being reduced to two.
* - 0400 GMT, July 31, 2013 - The story was updated to mention the BCCI's appeal options