It’s was on Justice Mukul Mudgal committee’s probe into the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal and the corruption charges against Gurunath Meiyappan, Raj Kundra and their respective franchises that the SC based its January judgement, which led the Lodha panel to render the quantum of punishment on the guilty. Speaking to Sandeep Dwivedi, Justice Mudgal expresses his satisfaction over the verdict, answers why the Sundar Raman investigation is complex, and stresses the need of structural reforms in the BCCI.
Your reaction on Justice RM Lodha’s order in the IPL corruption case?
I think the verdict is extremely balanced. Well-considered and it’s a very, very detailed order going into every nuance of the rules, the operational rules and a very detailed analysis.
Do you think the two-year ban on Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals is enough?
It is appropriate. Beyond that it would have been excessive and below that, it wouldn’t have been a deterrent.
So the ball is now in BCCI’s court in terms of how they deal with the suspension of teams?
The appropriate thing would be to invite two new franchises. Like in European football where you can loan players for a year or two, IPL can do the same. I think the CSK and RR players can be loaned, if desired by new teams, for two years. That way their link with the original team doesn’t go and they come back to the team. Meanwhile the paying public is not denied the chance of seeing them.
What about the BCCI running teams, is that an option being considered?
Prima facie this may be seen as conflict of interest. But frankly it’s hypothetical because at the moment the board hasn’t taken any decision. So the appropriate time to comment will be when they actually take a decision. They may go for two new teams; that way they will get more money.
There are those who say that players might suffer financial loses because of the ban on franchise…
Justice Lodha in the last paragraph of the order has stated that for the larger good some players have to undergo economic problem but cricket is bigger than any team or player. I think it couldn’t have been put in a more felicitous manner as Justice Lodha has put. But I have to say one thing. I didn’t find any such player concern expressed by anyone when Kochi Tuskers and Pune Warriors teams were expelled from the IPL.
So what’s so special about the players of Rajasthan Royals and CSK that suddenly this concern for the players? Where was the public concern when these two teams’ larger number of players were affected? Maybe, they were not star players but they too have a heart, they have sentiments, they also had incomes.
In your probe report, you said Gurunath Meiyappan was a de facto owner of Chennai Super Kings. That statement seems to have gone a long way in convincing the SC that Gurunath wasn’t a mere official as argued by lawyers. And that in turn resulted in the CSK suspension and his life ban …
He was the face of the team. Nothing exemplifies it better than the fact that in the auction he was holding the paddle. During our probe we found that all teams set a target for players. That they fix a bidding amount for each player. Say they are ready to pay 10 million for a player, but if the amount in the bidding exceeded then it was he who took the decision. So if you had earmarked 10 million for a player and you found that the bidding has gone up to 11 million, whether to bid 11.5 or not was a call he took.
So, the argument he was an official or an enthusiast doesn’t hold water ?
No. But we need to understand that a team official’s doings can affect a franchise. Even if we assume he was a team official he was a very prominent one.
What about the IPL CEO Sundar Raman? In your report, you said his role needed to be further probed. More than a year later, Justice Lodha too says his role needs to be probed further. Do you think things are being dragged?
No, it is a very complex situation. You have to talk to the ICC people. Because what the version we have recorded says that he was informed about Meiyappan’s betting by the ICC anti-corruption unit and other people. But the ICC people told him that it was not actionable so therefore he did not convey the information to anyone.
Now that has to be probed whether he conveyed the information to anyone. Who was the person in the ICC who told him that it was not actionable? He has to point that out. There is a contradiction there. Therefore, we couldn’t find somebody delinquent without the evidence to support him. So the ICC officials have to say weather they told him or not .
The world of betting and fixing is very complicated. There is talk about the involvement of underworld, powerful officials and star players. Did you have enough resources to get to the bottom of the problem?
The underworld business was mentioned in the report by Mr (Nilay) Dutta (a member of the Justice Mudgal committee). We thought it wasn’t in the scope of our investigation. It obviously requires a very sophisticated and a high-level connected probe. We had a very good team. Mr BB Mishra was an outstanding official. We had good officers assisting him. Frankly for the mandate we had, we didn’t need a bigger team.
How effective have been the ICC and BCCI anti-corruption units?
The role of ICC and BCCI Anti-Corruption Unit needs to be looked at. Why are they so dormant, why are they so reactive. They always say ‘We don’t have the power to tap (phones)’. But I am sure there are other means of discovering things.
You say in your report that the two bodies don’t even share the data …
Yes, that is an area of concern. BCCI should look into it. All through the legal process, the court and panel have been very conscious about BCCI’s autonomy …Yes, of course. I want to put this on record that BCCI is among the best run sports bodies in the country. It has some drawbacks. But it is run efficiently. When it comes to players and former cricketers getting benefits, N Srinviasvan has been really good. You can’t keep on criticising him. You can criticise (them) for some things. But there are other things that can be done. Such as, BCCI must invest in small-town stadiums and playing facilities. With its huge funds they should buy play grounds. Every district should have a playground, BCCI has the resources to do it.
The Justice RM Lodha panel will also suggest some reforms; your comments on that?
Frankly, if you ask me in terms of importance, this is far more important than dealing with the two teams. Because that is where the structural reforms can come in. The wisdom of the three judges — Justice Lodha, Justice Ashok Bhan, Justice RV Raveendran – and the lawyer who is assisting them, Gopal Sankaranarayanan, will ensure that some wonderful reforms will come about.
Can you suggest some administrative reforms?
No state should suffer because of someone’s personal animosity. For example players from Bihar have not been able to play for their state. Jharkhand, a smaller body, has a representation. It is extremely unfair. And you call yourself Board of Control for Cricket in India by taking such action. You may have an issue with an office bearer so you take action. Why isn’t anyone screaming about the cricketers from Bihar who have not been able to play for 10 to 15 years.
Players haven’t played Ranji Trophy because you don’t like a person. That I think is the most glaring deficiency of the BCCI. It can’t be called Board of Control for Cricket in India because it is not representing the whole of India as a major state is cut out. Because of personal reasons. Maybe, officials are bad, so punish them but you can’t punish the players, you can’t punish the state.
You mentioned ‘conflict of interest’ in your probe report and later SC annulled the amendment that had allowed BCCI officials to have commercial interest in cricket. How big was that reform?
It is a massive reform. How is it that such a amendment was brought about in the first place! It is amazing. Highly educated, highly intelligent people permitted for this amendment to take place. It stares you in the face. How many years did it last, nobody thought of removing it!
Justice TS Thakur called it the true villain of the piece, do you agree?
Absolutely, I am so happy that Justice Thakur has taken such a stand. In the annals of sport and public law this is the most important judgment. Because of this SC is being viewed as a saviour of sports by the entire sports-loving public. If it is judicial activism then it is wonderful. Judicial activism must do public good and and I don’t think better public good has been served than by improving our most popular game.
You report mentions names of a few ‘international players’ cropping up in conversations between bookies, there are media reports of World Cup stars on tape talking to shady men, BCCI officials have deposed to your committee suggesting you probe all IPL games. What happened to the sealed envelop with names? Now in the verdict, there is no mention of players?
We had put all that in our report and the Supreme Court probably had good reason not disclosing them to the public. That is something I wouldn’t like to comment on because it is the property of the SC. It is for the court to decide how that report had to be dealt with.