The Supreme Court has put off N. Srinivasan's return as the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Deliberating on a petition filed by the Cricket Association of Bihar, the apex court has now suggested a three-member panel, headed by former Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court Mukul Mudgal to probe the Indian Premier League betting scandal. The case will come up for hearing again on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court has asked both the BCCI and the Bihar association to give their views on the proposed committee. Apart from Mudgal, the other members of the three-member panel are senior advocate Niloy Dutta and Additional Solicitor General L. Nageswara Rao. Interestingly, Rao is also a cricketer.
It may be recalled that Bihar had appealed to the Supreme Court to form an independent committee to investigate corruption in IPL after the Bombay High Court on July 30 had declared as "illegal and unconstitutional" a BCCI-appointed panel consisting of two former judges. A Bombay High Court Division Bench of Justices S.J. Vazifdar and M.S. Sonak had given its ruling after hearing a public interest litigation filed by Bihar's Aditya Verma, who challenged the constitution of the commission by the BCCI and the IPL governing council, especially as it was formed when Srinivasan was still active president of the BCCI. Needless to say, the BCCI panel gave a clean chit to Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals owners who faced charges of betting during IPL games.
On Monday, the Bihar association expressed its opposition to Arun Jaitley as a member of the probe committee. Jaitley is a former vice-president of the BCCI and reckoned as the 'brain' behind Srinivasan, who was forced to step aside as the Board president in June when the IPL scandal rocked the cricket fraternity. Last week, the BCCI proposed the names of Jaitley and Dutta as part of a panel to probe afresh the corruption charges against team owners of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals. Bihar did not agree to this panel.
Supreme Court judges Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar on Monday said it wanted an "independent" panel that will not only investigate the IPL scandal but also give "recommendations" to the BCCI. After Bihar suggested the names of former Supreme Court judges B.N. Srikrishna or S.H. Kapadia, Justice Patnaik and Justice Khehar proposed the committee to be headed by Mudgal. The apex court is now expected to ratify the panel on Tuesday.
It is still not clear when Srinivasan can assume his office as BCCI president. However, the Supreme Court has said: "(Srinivasan) having been elected, he has to function and cricket has to go on". The same mood prevailed in the hearing on September 30 when the Supreme Court criticized the way the BCCI was functioning. "There is something wrong," the judges said, even asking why the Board "had lost its credibility."
Justice Patnaik and Justive Khehar felt Srinivasan was elected "democratically" and an organization like the BCCI cannot work without a head. Bihar lawyers also said the president had to work since Srinivasan had to take major decisions on behalf of the richest cricket body in the world. At the BCCI Annual General Meeting in Chennai on September 29, Srinivasan unanimously won a year's extension but could not assume office till the Supreme Court disposed of a petition that restrained him from taking charge.
Since August, the Supreme Court has been deliberating on a Special Leave Petition filed by the Bihar association that wanted the court to restrain Srinivasan from contesting the BCCI elections because his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan was charge-sheeted by the Mumbai Police for corruption during Indian Premier League matches earlier this year. Although the Bihar body said Srinivasan had "no moral right" to lead the BCCI, the court allowed Srinivasan to take part in the elections, but only just.
Like a Test match, the Srinivasan camp is surely facing the test of patience. While indications of Srinivasan's return as BCCI president is quite apparent, the judges are in no mood to rush. BCCI's lawyers have already told the Supreme Court that Srinivasan will not participate in IPL-related affairs. Once the court approves the panel, the heat and dust over Srinivasan "officially" taking charge as BCCI boss should settle.