New Delhi: The Supreme Court's rejection yesterday of a BCCI proposal to constitute a committee to punish those named in the Mudgal report indicated the apex court's discomfort in steps taken by the world's richest cricket board to stem the rot in India's cricket management.
April 22, 2010: Chennai Super Kings' team official Gurunath Meiyappan has a word with Indian Premier League COO Sundar Raman during the 2010 IPL semi-final between Deccan Chargers and CSK at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai. The Mudgal probe has indicted Srinivasan's son-in-law, Meiyappan, for betting, and has pulled up Raman for 'contacting a bookie eight times in one season' and also for not acting upon information about Meiyappan and Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra betting. Pic/Getty Images
"Is there a guarantee that all those in the committee would be free from corruption?" asked the judges. Particularly worrisome for the court was the issue of conflict of interest in India's cricket administration where the Chennai-based India Cements, owned by ICC chairman and BCCI president in exile, N Srinivasan, also owned the Chennai Super Kings franchise.
The court's reprimand was a severe setback to Srinivasan, who was curtly told by the two-member bench that he could not make a distinction between IPL and BCCI. "IPL is a by-product of BCCI," the judges said. Worse, Srinivasan's son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, a top official of CSK ever since IPL started in 2008, has been indicted for betting.
Further worrisome was the fact that Srinivasan had called Meiyappan a "cricket enthusiast" and not a CSK "stake-holder" and that the Mudgal report had charged him and other IPL officials of "cover up" of misdeeds of an unnamed player who violated Players Code of Conduct. The report called these "misdemeanors."
"The ownership of team raises conflict of interest. President of BCCI has to run the show but you have a team which raises questions and it can't be wished away."
BCCI insiders told this correspondent there were chances that the board, severely reprimanded by the court, could undertake some quickfire decisions to prove it is trying hard to stem the rot in India's cricket management.
"Some heads could roll soon, very soon. The court must be convinced the board is acting in the interest of the game," said a top insider, requesting anonymity. On Srinivasan's chances of getting another term as BCCI boss, the judges said: "One of the employees (Gurunath Meiyappan) of your team was involved in betting.
Benefit of doubt
"You have to reply because it will affect the position and the dignity of BCCI president's position." The judges added: "The benefit of doubt should go to the game and not an individual." The court's mood was amply clear.
The judges made it known that though conflict of interest was not directly in the ambit of Mudgal's probe, a person who owns an IPL franchise against whom there are issues of corruption, cannot ethically be the leader of BCCI. The judges said: "Some people who are in BCCI now own a team. Now it has become a mutual benefit
They added: "If people know that a game is fixed who will visit the stadium? In India, cricket is like a religion. Recognition comes when one lakh people in Eden Gardens applaud."
"You are assuming a clean chit," the judges told Srinivasan, who is seeking a Supreme Court nod to seek re-election as BCCI president and has been visiting various temples in South India to seek blessings to overcome what he has privately told his friends is his "life's worst crisis".
The BCCI lawyers' argument that there was no conflict of interest since the Bombay High Court had dismissed the issue did not carry much favour from the two-member bench.