The contents of a sealed envelope, submitted by a Supreme Court-appointed inquiry committee, will be under much focus when the apex court starts hearing the findings of the Justice Mukul Mudgal committee on Tuesday morning. The committee probed allegations of match-fixing and betting in the Indian Premier League last year and submitted its reports to the Supreme Court on February 10.
The two-judge bench of Justice AK Patnaik and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla will also hear arguments over the probe committee report that has already indicted Chennai Super Kings' Gurunath Meiyappan, the son-in-law of Board of Control for Cricket in India president N. Srinivasan, for betting and divulging team information. Rajasthan Royals team co-owner Raj Kundra is also under the scanner for betting.
With the seventh edition of the IPL all set to start in the United Arab Emirates on April 16, it remains to be seen if the Supreme Court cracks the whip on erring team officials who have put the cash-rich T20 league into disrepute. According to the tournament's franchise owners' constitution, both Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals could face expulsion. But the confidence in which the BCCI has gone about planning for this year's IPL, it seems past champions Chennai and Rajasthan are in 'safe' zone.
Meanwhile, the BCCI has already submitted its replies to the Supreme Court. Most importantly, the Board's lawyers have requested the bench not to divulge the contents of the envelope that reportedly has "sensitive" information pertaining to some top Indian players. Coming across "many allegations of sporting fraud," the Mudgal committee had forwarded its findings in a sealed envelope. Fearing "damage to the "reputation" of cricketers and the BCCI, the Board has requested the Supreme Court not to divulge the contents of the envelope.
"Speculative and baseless charges against leading cricketers have already been made by unscrupulous news channels under the guise of "Sting Operations". Speculation is rife that the sealed cover contains names of some current member of the National Team. The Hon'ble Court would kindly take steps to staunch any further damage to the image under reputation of innocent cricketers and the BCCI by passing appropriate orders and thereby render justice," the BCCI said in its 33-page response on March 7.
Interestingly, Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has already slapped a Rs 100-crore defamation case in the Madras High Court against two private media houses saying that they were broadcasting "defamatory, scandalous and malicious reports" linking him to bookies. The High Court has already restrained the two private channels from carrying any news news/discussion/debate concerning Dhoni's alleged role in IPL match fixing and betting scam.
The Mudgal committee submitted two reports to the Supreme Court on February 10. The first, signed by retired judge Justice Mudgal and Additional Solicitor General of India L. Nageswara Rao, asked the court to "decide the further course of action" because the probe committee did not have the power to impose punishment. Another supplementary report, signed by Nilay Dutta, a vice-president of Assam Cricket Association and a member of the IPL Governing Council, said: "This should not be misinterpreted to mean that the report suggests that the Hon'ble Court would decide on the punishment or penalty to be imposed."
The BCCI, which supports Dutta's comments, now wants the Supreme Court to let it start fresh disciplinary proceedings against Gurunath and Chennai Super Kings under the IPL franchise rules. The ambiguity in the Mudgal committee reports makes Tuesday's hearing all the more complex and interesting.