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Supreme Court gives N. Srinivasan an option of two independent judges studying conflict of interest

It also clarified that the new panel will be a “very high-power committee” which can address the issues relating to conflict of interest.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi |
Updated: December 10, 2014 10:01:00 am
N Srinivasan argued before a bench led by Justice TS Thakur that if conflict of interest was to be gauged with this yardstick, then hundreds of persons would come under its shadow (Source: PTI) Srinivasan told the court to prescribe punishment if he is found guilty. (Source: PTI)

In a submission that may take the IPL corruption case out of the courtroom, ousted BCCI chief N Srinivasan told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that he was agreeable on setting up a two-judge panel to examine afresh accusations of conflict of interest against him and prescribe punishment if he is found guilty. He said that the BCCI could then issue appropriate punitive orders in terms of the finding of the new panel.

Srinivasan’s counsel Kapil Sibal proposed it after the court offered him four options and sought his pick. A bench of Justices T S Thakur and FMI Kalifulla had said that it did not want to short-circuit the BCCI’s working machinery and that it was in the favour of finding a solution from the cricket body’s own regulations.

It had asked Sibal to speak to his client and indicate his preference out of the four options if they did not want the court to pass any order. The options were: 1) Srinivasan steps aside from all the BCCI affairs and a BCCI committee takes a decision 2) Two independent judges are appointed to look into the quantum of punishment 3) The IPL Governing Council decides on punishment or 4) Mudgal probe Panel is brought back to decide the punishment.

Responding, Sibal said that he would prefer a two-judge panel to look into the allegations of conflict of interest against Srinivasan and then decide on the quantum of punishment, if he is found guilty. Sibal said that his client, Srinivasan, has also agreed not to associate with the affairs of the BCCI till this panel concluded its scrutiny. He, however, maintained that Srinivasan’s right to run for the president of the BCCI election could not be curtailed.

‘Not given chance to defend’

On being asked, Sibal also said that the new panel did not only have spell out the punishment but will also require to examine whether Srinivasan could be held guilty of conflict of interest or not since no other inquiry in the past had dealt with this question. He said that the Mudgal panel also did not adjudicate upon the issue of conflict of interest and hence Srinivasan was never never given any opportunity to defend against such allegations.

“If we hand over the probe to a new panel, what happens in the interregnum?,” asked the bench. Sibal retorted: “It can be the previous way. I will stand in the election and if I win, I will not take charge.”

Nalini Chidambaram, advocate for petitioner Cricket Association of Bihar, however, opposed Sibal’s proposal, saying status quo in respect of all the aspect of the matter was required and added let there be no president for the BCCI till conclusion of the fresh inquiry.

Disagreeing with this suggestion, the bench said: “We cannot let a vacuum to continue in the BCCI. There has to be somebody to run the show. Srinivasan has expressed his preference and we don’t see why it should not be your choice too. As far as possible, mechanism under the BCCI should be made applicable.

It also clarified that the new panel will be a “very high-power committee” which can even address the issues relating to situations where conflict of interest may arise and make recommendations. The court said the most important thing for them was to ensure that there should be a purity of game and to look into the remedial aspect from the committee.

“BCCI creates in minds an illusion that the game is fair but the entire nation feels cheated. Is there any remedy as otherwise what will happen to the nation?” it said.

CAB counsel however maintained that either the Annual General Meeting and the election should be postponed by the BCCI till the fresh inquiry or Srinivasan should be directed to stay away from it.

The court replied: “Valuable rights of individuals are involved in such matters. Only on the basis of certain allegations, should we disentitle him from participating in a democratic process? It is not that he declares himself to be president of the BCCI. There are several other members of the state associations are also involved in the process.”

‘One issue at a time’

The bench also told the CAB: “You seems to have too many problems with everything and you think everyone is either bribed or is corrupt. We cannot clean up the entire mess at one stroke. We can only deal with one issue at a time, in accordance with a process known to law.”

Meanwhile, the court also censured Srinivasan for attending a BCCI meeting as the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association head despite stepping aside as cricket administrator. Srinivasan’s counsel Sibal admitted it was a mistake and said he should not have attended the meetings.

The bench further made it clear that it wanted punitive action against Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, who was indicted of betting during the IPL 2013. The court will resume hearing on Wednesday.

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