Former India captain Rahul Dravid has been cleared of conflict of interest charges by the BCCI ethics officer Justice (retd.) DK Jain. Justice Jain issued the order on Thursday after conducting two hearings in response to a complaint filed by Sanjeev Gupta, a life member of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA).
Gupta had alleged that Dravid, who was appointed the director of the National Cricket Academy (NCA) this July by the BCCI, was guilty of conflict of interest because he was occupying more than one post at the time, which was not permitted as per the board's rules. The second post that Dravid was serving, Gupta said in his complaint, was as vice-president of India Cements Pvt. Ltd, which he claimed had ties with the Chennai Super Kings franchise in the IPL.
However, in his order, Justice Jain said "a case of conflict" against Dravid could not be made and hence he had "dismissed" the complaint because it was "bereft of merit."
In the order, Justice Jain noted that Dravid had rejected the allegation straightaway, in a written response on August 9. Dravid told Justice Jain that on the "advice" of BCCI and to "avoid any kind of conflict of interest" he had taken "leave of absence" without salary from India Cements during his stint at the NCA. Dravid pointed out that he had been an employee of Indian Cements for two decades, but never had "any connection, relationship or obligation" towards the Super Kings.
The BCCI also told Justice Jain that the Super Kings franchise was run by Chennai Super Kings Cricket Ltd., registered in 2013 under the Indian Companies Act. It had nothing to do with India Cements, which was an independent entity. Hence, the BCCI said Dravid could not be an employee of the Super Kings, as Gupta had alleged.
"He (Dravid) has asserted that his employment with India Cements Limited, is not and cannot be construed as an employment with the CSK franchisee, regardless of any relationship between the two entities, viz India Cements Limited and Chennai Super Kings Cricket Ltd.," the order said. "He has further pleaded that at no point in time, has he been a "Team Official" of CSK."
Gupta, however, did not accept that. At the hearing on September 26 in Mumbai, Gupta told Justice Jain that Chennai Super Kings Cricket Ltd. was a "wholly owned subsidiary" of India Cements with "some" of the directors sitting on boards of both firms. Gupta said "a mere change in nomenclature" could not absolve Dravid of the conflict of interest allegation.
The ethics officer was clear about one thing. "The concept of 'conflict of interest', is not necessarily a question about something one does or intends to do but a question of what one can possibly or potentially do," Justice Jain said in his order.
Justice Jain even referred to the judgments he had served in the cases concerning two of Dravid's former India team-mates - Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, both of whom were held guilty of conflict. The complaint against Ganguly had been filed by more than one member of the public, while Gupta had pressed the conflict charge against Laxman.
Justice Jain pointed out that Ganguly and Laxman suffered from "tractable conflict" and fell foul of the one-man-one-post rule stated in the BCCI constitution.
Dravid's case allowed him to examine the rules deeper. "For examining an instance of 'conflict of interest'', mere holding of posts by an individual associated with the BCCI may not per-se be sufficient for arriving at the conclusion of existence of 'conflict of interest'," Justice Jain said in the order. "But whether holding of such post(s) gives rise to 'conflict of interest' or not must also be tested on the anvil of reasonable apprehensions of, or actual favoritism, lack of objectivity, bias, benefits, etc., as contemplated in the definition of 'conflict of interest'."
Accordingly, Justice Jain needed to test whether the two posts Dravid held "give rise to an apprehension of, lack of objectivity or bias" in each of those positions. "At least, I am unable to fathom any such circumstance (none has even been pointed out by the Complainant), which would come in the way of Mr. Rahul Dravid in fairly discharging his duties as a 'Team Official', without being influenced or influencing, in any manner, as a person who is in governance, management or employment of a franchisee or vice versa."
According to Justice Jain, to avoid any complications at the behest of the BCCI, Dravid had handed a written copy from Indian Cements giving a leave of absence until he was employed by the board.