Sandeep Dwivedi: You have been a sports fan and now you are on the IPL match-fixing probe panel. Are you disappointed with the way sports is now?
My interest in sports can never go. One can be disappointed by certain factors, but I am an optimist. Sports will triumph over all obstacles.
Sandeep Dwivedi: Do you wonder whether what is happening on the screen is actually happening, or something or someone else is pulling the strings?
Contrary to common perception, I don’t think matches are routinely fixed. You have so much experience; while watching a match, you can make out if something is fishy. Sometimes matches are odd because of various factors. Yes, there have been aberrations but it is not a routine thing.
However, I have not the slightest doubt that the IPL format has hurt Test cricket. I don’t think players can play even one session of a Test match today. We need to learn from (Brendon) McCullum, Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman who played the entire day without getting out in the Kolkata Test. I think IPL does help youngsters rub shoulders with celebrities. It teaches them temperament and it gives them money. I have nothing against money. But it should be channelised properly.
Coomi Kapoor: You have been quoted as saying that betting should be legalised.
I am a strong votary of it. It is economically sound. An India-Pakistan match generates a huge amount of revenue and if you were to put taxes in the region of 20 per cent on it, the amount of money which will accrue to the government will be enormous. India is a country of one billion cricket experts and everybody has a view on it. Everybody would like to place a bet, but most of them won’t do it because they are law-abiding citizens. Therefore, it generates black money. So, legalising betting will reduce match-fixing or spot-fixing.
Sandeep Dwivedi: Franchise owners have a lot of influence, have made huge investments in IPL teams, and reportedly not everybody is making a profit. So how difficult is it, say, for a player to be influenced by an owner and for him to say no? You have spoken to the owners, the players, the agents, so what is your opinion?
Well, all of them maintained that the owners did not speak to the players and kept their distance. The players were not directly asked this question because we only interacted with two or three categories of players: those four-five directly involved, like Ankeet Chavan, those who had something to do with the teams and those with unimpeachable integrity, like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, etc. We have routine anti-corruption lectures where some South African with some queer accent comes in and tells maybe a player from Haryana that you are to do this and this, and he nods his head sagely and signs a document. We have suggested there be players talking in a language which those people understand.
Sandeep Dwivedi: Will any player, however young, not know that talking to a bookie is not right? Do you think the anti-corruption guy needs to come and say that?
You see, these things don’t start directly. Nobody comes and tells a player, ‘Look, I want you to fix matches’. First, they’ll make friends with them socially, then take them to some parties where there would be attractive companions. These youngsters are then asked what is happening tomorrow, this kind of a thing. A youngster may not even know that by telling him, ‘I am not playing, player x is playing’, he is divulging insider information. So, these instructions are necessary, but should be imparted intelligibly.
Unni Rajen Shanker: Doesn’t betting get legitimised when a team principal is involved in it, goes to the dugout and the dressing room and the youngsters know he is into it?
From whatever we learned, no one had known that he (Gurunath Meiyappan) was betting. It was not known to the team. It emerged only out of a phone tap done by the Mumbai Police. Also, we were told that 2011 or 2012 onwards, the rules about dugout had been made very clear. No person but the team, support staff, the coach could go to the dugout. I’m told that today you have owners’ dugout, where you may see some famous people prancing around, and the players’ dugout.
Nihal Koshie: Do you think the ICC (International Cricket Council) and BCCI anti-corruption units need to do more? Even in your report, you mentioned they were not forthcoming while you spoke to them.
They need to do more in two ways. They should be a little more proactive than reactive. When the media releases something, they get into action. Their stock answer is, ‘We don’t have the right to invade privacy, we don’t have the right to tap phones’. But I think tapping phones is not the answer. There are other ways. To be fair to the anti-corruption unit of the BCCI, they said it was formed only in 2011 and they are still in the process of getting more personnel.
Sandeep Dwivedi: Whatever scandal has been unearthed has been either because of a television sting or because the police were tracking some other case and stumbled upon it. There is not one case the ICC or the BCCI has brought to light.
No doubt. I think that shows they are not that effective. The BCCI pays enormous sums of money to the ICC anti-corruption unit. What can a foreign person, who does not understand the desi language, decipher in a conversation is what I would like to know. There are so many nuances of local languages that a foreigner will never understand. Hints like peti — he will think it is a suitcase — words like khokha are only known locally. That is what the BCCI should stop. Also, most ICC officials are from non-Asian countries. We have a token representation. I want to give you an example. How many matches did Chris Broad play as a Test player? I think 13 or 14. How many matches has he umpired as a match referee? More than 150. I don’t think his decisions are objective.
Sandeep Dwivedi: Harbhajan doesn’t bowl when Broad referees.
Harbhajan is justified in doing so. We have persons like (Javagal) Srinath who have played so many matches. How many matches has he refereed? You see the pattern of match referees. The only one who gets more matches (than Broad) is Ranjan Madugalle. Apart from that, overseas, Jeff Crowe must have played 10 matches in his life… he is there. Mr N Srinivasan (the BCCI chief) should ensure that these things don’t happen. This affects cricket more than anything else.
Appu Esthose Suresh: As a judge, you have given a lot of judgments on khap panchayats. Do you agree with Aam Aadmi Party leader Yogendra Yadav’s views on khap panchayats, giving them legitimacy as a socio-cultural phenomenon?
Well, there is some truth to that. When the khap panchayat case was listed before me, they defended their stand saying they are only espousing their ancestors’ cultural and ethical views — one can’t find anything wrong with that. But what I found absolutely abhorrent was that if two people marry contrary to their wishes, killing or social ostracisation is their answer. In a rural setting, a person being socially ostracised is almost like a civil death. If he is a farmer, he can’t go anywhere else. His life is completely gone. So they all become subservient.
But I have devised certain measures to prevent honour killings. I passed orders that whenever a couple intending to marry or a newly-married couple seeks protection, every district judge can take that complaint. Safe houses were created in every district of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, where for a minimum of 15 days, protective custody and free food were granted to newly-married couples. If threat persisted, it was the police’s duty to ensure that cover would be extended for the duration of the threat. I had spoken to some sociologists and most took the view that within 10-15 days, the anger subsides. This did reduce instances of honour killings and harassment, but as far the social boycott is concerned, it will be very difficult to pass orders against that.
Rohit Alok*: Many arms of the government are keeping a watchful eye on IPL. Do you consider IPL to be a problem child for the BCCI?
It is a cash cow frankly, so I wouldn’t call it a problem child. But yes, it does fester with controversies. It started with after-match parties, which I believe have now been reduced. That’s where, many times, contact with undesirable persons, not necessarily dealing with betting, fixing or other undesirable activities, happens. You have to see the situation of a youngster who does not come from a metro. He is suddenly exposed to glamorous people whom he has only seen on TV or in magazines. So, it is not easy to keep your composure. That is where some stability, some instructions are required.
Maneesh Chhibber: Under the sports Bill, the BCCI and all sport bodies would have been brought under the RTI. Do you think that should happen? Also, the BCCI is very rich, but what is the kind of infrastructure it has created? The BCCI still wants to host matches at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla stadium, which is a government-owned property.
The BCCI can spend its money on three or four things. It should create far more stadiums with adequate facilities. Feroz Shah Kotla is a hundred times more improved than what it used to be when I watched my first Test match in 1959-1960 there. It was an India vs West Indies match, and there was a season ticket for Rs 10 for the lowest stand. Being a school student, you could get it for Rs 8. All five days, the stadium was jam-packed and I could only stand and watch. The facilities were dismal. Things are better today, but they still need vast improvement.
First, meals should be available to spectators at reasonable rates. You can’t have high pricing for both meals and tickets because the franchise owner has to make his money.
The other thing is Test matches with empty grounds. I saw on TV Eden Gardens half full for a one-day international, which shocked me. I remember a match when West Indies were about to beat India by an enormous margin and, I think, about five overs’ play was left, but Eden Gardens was jam-packed to see India lose.
Students, particularly those of less affluent or government schools, should be allowed to watch Test matches free and should be given a snack and a cold drink. If you do this, your stadiums would be full.
The BCCI, in its public activities, should be amenable to RTI. Not its contracts and commercial activities, not everything should be under RTI but, certainly, wherever it is in public interest, it should be under RTI. That’s our recommendation in the Bill.
Maneesh Chhibber: What do you make of the closed-door system of judicial appointments, and do you think the government needs to do something rather than just talk? In the past 15 years, every law minister has made a statement that we are going to change the judicial appointment system. A Bill is there but nobody wants to push it.
I have a confession to make. Along with Mr Nariman, I was the lawyer in the first case when this law started getting laid down. I was the advocate on record for SC Advocates on Record Association. Mr Nariman, in his book, has said that was the only case he regrets having won. I think that outside input is an absolute must, but eventual voice should be that of judges. The majority in a committee should be judges. Today the system is too closed-door and seniority-centric; merit, sometimes, takes a back seat. Like, in automatic promotions of chief justices to the Supreme Court, I think merit should also play a role. The present system needs some kind of an overhaul.
Kaunain Sheriff*: With regard to the khap panchayat case, how do you legislate on what makes for public space and what makes for private space? In this, both parties are claiming some of their rights are being infringed upon?
I don’t think it really needs a legislation. It needs the enforcement of existing laws. There are enough penal and civil laws to prevent these things from happening but, unfortunately, enforcement is very poor when there is lack of political will because these are large vote banks.
Maneesh Chhibber: You were one of the people who gave legal opinion to the Arvind Kejriwal government on their Jan Lokpal Bill. One of your close associates, Rahul Mehra, is part of the Aam Aadmi Party. So are you disappointed with AAP’s conduct?
I avoid political questions. But I was disappointed by the name-calling. They may not agree with the lieutenant governor, but I don’t think it was necessary to foul-mouth him. I was dismayed by that.
Krishna Uppuluri*: There was a rumour about Munirka residents wanting people from Northeast to move out. AAP has proposed a Swaraj Bill, giving more powers to the local government. Do you think the Bill will turn RWAs into khap panchayats?
I have neither seen the Swaraj Bill nor the Jan Lokpal Bill because it was not given to us. What I was asked was whether Rule 55 was violating Article 239A, which I was clear it is. But I said the right process to challenge its constitutionality was abundant caution — that perhaps has not come out.
Maneesh Chhibber: When a party forms a government, everybody expects them to go according to the laws and the statutes, which are constitutional because everything is constitutional till found unconstitutional by a court of law. So, does it disappoint you that the AAP government, while they talk about Constitution, were not ready to go by what was deemed constitutional?
I think I have said it in my opinion. By abundant caution, the validity of the rule should be challenged. If you view it from the Constitution angle, it’s clearly worth it because I will tell you what the rule says, generally. It says that the Constitution says that there are three or four heads on which Central government consent is necessary. To that extent, we thought that the rule was unconstitutional. Even then, one must challenge an unconstitutional rule. Nobody can abrogate to himself the right to say it’s unconstitutional and I will not obey it. It should not become like the Dandi March, which was for a far more noble purpose.
Transcribed by Hormazd