Thursday could make or break N. Srinivasan's career as a sports administrator. The Tamil Nadu businessman, who heads the Board of Control for Cricket in India and is in line to become the first chairman of the International Cricket Council later this year, could find himself at the wrong end of the country's highest court for his controversial role in the 2013 Indian Premier League spot-fixing and betting scam. The scandal involves Srinivasan's son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, the erstwhile team principal of Chennai Super Kings. (Read: Top-10 developments in case)
The Supreme Court hearing reopens on Thursday with the BCCI legal team expected to defend serious charges of corruption against players and officials involved with the IPL. A high-profile inquiry panel, headed by former High Court judge Justice Mukul Mudgal, had submitted its reports to the apex court on February 10. The panel also submitted a confidential envelope that reportedly contains the names of a few Indian cricketers and a few top officials. (Pressure on Srinivasan mounts as three vice presidents ask him to resign)
According to Usha Nath Banerjee, the BCCI's former legal head, if the Supreme Court bench, hearing the IPL scam case, continues from where it left on Tuesday, then it's ominous for the 69-year-old Srinivasan. Justice AK Patnaik, one of the two judges, had lashed the BCCI chief with harsh words, saying: "Why Srinivasan is not stepping down? It is so nauseating? Why is he sticking to the president's post?" (Read full report here)
"In the history of the BCCI, we have had several court cases, but never have the judges used such words like 'nauseating' against a president. It's been so demeaning for all associated with the game. Tuesday was a Black Day for Indian cricket," said Banerjee in an exclusive chat with NDTV.com from Kolkata.
"The way the judge admonished the BCCI legal counsel CA Sundaram and showed him a portion of the confidential report, it is a serious matter," said Banerjee. Justice Patnaik had told Sundaram to "see the papers and form his opinion rather than function as Srinivasan's paid counsel."
More importantly, the court has said it will "pass an order if Srinivasan doesn't step down." Banerjee feels that this is more than a threat and should have been taken more seriously by the BCCI. A defiant Srinivasan has so far refused to step down. (Must read: Former BCCI president Manohar calls for suspension of IPL)
"The BCCI's strategy to adopt a wait-and-act policy is perplexing. If the Supreme Court indeed passes an order against Srinivasan, his entire career as a sports chief can be ruined. At least morally, he will lose face to represent India at the ICC," feels Banerjee, who was the BCCI's legal chief from 1989 to 2005. (Read: Srinivasan should be shunted out once and for all, says Lalit Modi)
Banerjee said it would be foolish to 'predict' the outcome of Thursday's hearing. "If the judges continue to be in the same angry mood then a lot can happen. Srinivasan is definitely not sitting idle in Chennai and certainly won't take things lying down. There is bound to be pressure on the judges," said Banerjee, adding that one should read between the lines to understand the kind of pressure the judges are usually subjected to by high-profile persons in the society.
The IPL betting and fixing case began in June last year when the secretary of the Cricket Association of Bihar Aditya Verma filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court. After a two-member BCCI probe commission, appointed by Srinivasan and Co, gave Meiyappan and Rajasthan Royal's Raj Kundra a clean chit, hell broke loose. Verma promptly filed an affidavit in Bombay High Court pointing out Srinivasan's conflict of interest, since he owned Chennai Super Kings and Meiyappan was the husband of his daughter. The BCCI doesn't recognize Verma's CAB.
"For Srinivasan, the world is coming around. In 2004, the Chennai-based Netaji Cricket Club, an affiliate of Tamil Nadu Cricket Association, filed a case in the Madras High Court trying to restrain officials of the Jagmohan Dalmiya-led BCCI. The court appointed a retired Supreme Court judge S Mohan as the Board's interim administrator. The BCCI got the decision overturned at the Supreme Court and Mohan was not even allowed to enter the Board office in Mumbai," remembered Banerjee.
"In 2004, Srinivasan had ganged up with Lalit Modi and Sharad Pawar to overthrow Dalmiya. Today, Modi and Srinivasan are enemies and Dalmiya became interim BCCI chief when Srinivasan had stepped aside for a few weeks last year. Even that appointment was unconstitutional," said Banerjee.
BCCI, Banerjee felt, could find itself in a similar position if the Supreme Court appoints an independent person to run the Board till all the IPL scam was resolved and punishment meted out.
"I would have advised Srinivasan to quit and appoint a man from among the vice-presidents to run the Board. This would have been an 'honourable' solution that would also not hinder his appointment at the ICC because there was still no conviction. It is foolish to defy the highest court," Banerjee observed, adding: "Srinivasan has always been wrongly advised."
According to the BCCI's constitution, Shivlal Yadav, the former Test off-spinner from Hyderabad and one of the five vice-presidents, is the front-runner to be president if Srinivasan was removed. Yadav had chaired a meeting of the BCCI working committee in February, when Srinivasan opted out due to bereavement in the family.
According to the clause 15 (v) of BCCI's rules and regulations, "In case of vacancy occurring in the office of president by reason of death or by him being adjudged insolvent or by him being convicted in a criminal case by a competent Court or by resignation or otherwise, The Hon Secretary shall within fifteen days convene a Special General Body Meeting to elect the president who shall be nominated by at least one Full Member from the zone which proposed the name of the President whose term was cut short prematurely. Such person who is so elected shall hold office till the next elections."
But given BCCI's vicious power struggle and past history, nothing can be taken for granted.