Dashing the hopes of N Srinivasan of being reinstated as the head of the Indian cricket board, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said that the ousted BCCI chief was among 13 “very important personalities in cricket” against whom the IPL probe panel had cited serious allegations and he could not return until an investigation is carried out.
The court’s damning observations came on a day Srinivasan’s counsel was expected to argue for his reinstatement as the BCCI president as he had contended in his plea that Srinivasan could not be asked to stay away only because of “unfair and unsubstantiated” allegations.
However, a bench of Justices A K Patnaik and F M I Kalifulla disclosed in court that the confidential report by the Mudgal panel had noted serious charges and “incriminating material” against Srinivasan and 12 others.
“The allegations in the sealed cover report require verification and investigation. There is nothing personal against Srinivasan. There are 12 others involved and his name is the last on the list. These 12 others are also very important personalities in cricket. Very important cricketers’ names are there but we do not want to name them at this stage.
“Having come to know of all this, we cannot close our eyes. We cannot throw out what is there in the sealed cover report of the probe panel. You may be concerned with the BCCI or Mr Srinivasan, we are concerned with the game of cricket, the way it is played in this country and reputation of several players,” the bench said.
Making it clear that the allegations will have to be probed by a credible team of investigators, the court said that if the BCCI was to be given the authority to probe, it will have to be done without any prejudices and “Srinivasan cannot come back”.
As Srinivasan’s counsel Mukul Rohatgi expressed his inability to comprehend why it was necessary to keep his client out of the BCCI, the bench said that the report specifically pointed out that as many as 12 allegations were brought to his notice as the BCCI president but no action was taken.
“This means he did not want to take actions…which may mean all these things happened to his knowledge. So the idea is if he remains to be there despite having taken no action in the past, investigation could suffer,” the court said.
It said the court was not inclined to order a CBI or a probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) since it may sully the image of cricketers and undermine the “institutional autonomy” of the cricket board.
“We are not inclined to give the probe to the CBI or set up a SIT since it may encroach upon the institutional autonomy of the BCCI, which we are keen to protect. If cricket has to be clean, it should be the responsibility primarily of the BCCI.
Everything cannot be done by a court or CBI or police. Reputations of cricketers and great names are at stake. What happens to the reputation of the players who are representing the country and Indian cricketers of the future is our concern,” the bench said.
It asked the BCCI to propose to the court on April 22 how it can ensure a free and fair probe into the allegations in the confidential report.
The bench said it is concerned about cricket and the interim arrangement to replace Srinivasan with former Indian skipper Sunil Gavaskar was made so that the image of the IPL was not sullied and it remained a success.
It also allowed Sundar Raman to continue as chief operating officer of the seventh edition of IPL, which began on Wednesday.