New Delhi: India's Supreme Court Tuesday urged the powerful head of the country's cricket board to stand down while an investigation is conducted into illegal betting, saying his refusal to quit so far was 'nauseating'.
A two-judge panel warned it could order N. Srinivasan, who is regarded as the most powerful man in world cricket, to stand down unless he did so voluntarily as his continued presence in his post was hampering the investigation which involves his son-in-law.
N Srinivasan. Pic/ AFP
"Unless the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) president stands down, there can be no fair investigation. It's nauseating," Justice A.K. Patnaik told the court in New Delhi.
"If you don't step down, then we will pass an order," he added.
The bench is looking at a damning report that it commissioned last year into wrongdoing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) following a betting and spot-fixing scandal that rocked the popular Twenty20 tournament.
The report, released in February, concluded that Srinivasan's son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan could be guilty of illegal betting on IPL games, in a major blow to Srinivasan who is set to take over as head of the International Cricket Council in July.
Meiyappan was the team principal of Chennai Super Kings, an IPL franchise owned by Srinivasan's India Cements company and captained by national skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The report, by a panel headed by retired judge Mukul Mudgal, suggested that Meiyappan may have passed on team information to outsiders for illegal betting, but did not specify what information or to whom.
"There are no definite findings by the Mudgal committee but the allegations are of a very serious nature," Patnaik told the court.
The judge asked the BCCI's lawyers to go away and read the report and return on Thursday when the case will continue.
Meiyappan and others have also been the target of a separate police investigation which has resulted in charges of forgery, cheating, criminal conspiracy, breach of contract and handing critical team information to alleged bookmakers.
International news organisations have suspended their on-field coverage of matches hosted by the BCCI since 2012 after the board imposed restrictions on picture agencies.
Pressure today mounted on N Srinivasan to quit as BCCI President with former cricketers and administrators asking him to respect the Supreme Court observation that he should step down for a fair probe into the IPL fixing scandal.
After going through the contents of a report filed in a sealed cover by apex court-appointed probe panel into the scandal, a bench headed by Justice A K Patnaik said there are "very very serious" allegations made in the report and unless the BCCI President steps down, no fair probe can be conducted.
Former cricketers Mohinder Amarnath and Bishen Singh Bedi said that Srinivasan should now step down while former BCCI administrator and Rajasthan Cricket Association President Kishore Rungta also joined the chorus. Srinivasan also faced heat from within the Board as BCCI Vice President Shivlal Yadav said they will follow Supreme Court's suggestion.
"SC has given the order, nobody can challenge it. We have to accept it. Since the SC has given an order, there is no question of going back on it or giving an opinion on that. It has to be carried out in total and BCCI will have to follow whatever the Apex Court has given," Yadav said.
Asked if he was willing to do the duty, he said, "Absolutely, I am ready to accept any responsibility given to me." Former cricketer Amarnath, a member of 1983 World Cup winning team, said that the "game was bigger than an individual" and Srinivasan should step down in the interest of Indian cricket.
"In the interest of the game, one should step aside and let the enquiry go on. As a lover of the game, he should step down. He should respect the law and he should honour what Supreme Court has suggested. Let's see how it goes," Amarnath said.
Bedi took to twitter to express his opinion. "BCCI touches lowest low-thx SC' nudge 'Srini must step dn' & out of all matters crkting!What happens2all his cronies in bcci & icc?!Hail SC!," he tweeted shortly after the court observation. In his second tweet, Bedi wrote,"Justice MMudgal arrived on Indn crkt scene most providentially/aptly 2 clean up corrupted culture-any culture gd or bad stems frm top down!!"
Rungta was scathing in his criticism of Srinivasan, whose son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan was found guilty of placing bets on his IPL team Chennai Super Kings. "I am happy that Supreme Court has asked him to resign. This was absolute arrogance that he was continuing as President of the BCCI," Rungta said.
"The conduct committee (earlier) had said no Board member would indulge directly or indirectly with the game (IPL team).
An Exception was made for Srinivasan, which was wrong. I wish Supreme Court had taken a view at that time," Rungta said. Srinivasan had stepped aside in June 2013 after Meiyappan's name had cropped up in the fixing scandal, which had to led to ban on paceman S Sreesanth and his two other Rajasthan Royals colleagues.
In his absence, former BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya discharged the duties of the President. However, at the BCCI AGM in September 2013, Srinivasan was re-elected as President. Supreme Court had appointed a three-member probe panel, led by retired judge Justice Mukul Mudgal to investigate into the fixing saga.
The Apex court-appointed panel had replaced BCCI's own two-man probe panel, which had exonerated Meiyappan of any wrongdoing and its verdict was challenged in the courts.