In a major relief to the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the Supreme Court has allowed N. Srinivasan to assume office as Board chief. The apex court on Tuesday said Srinivasan was elected "democratically" and there were no direct charges of corruption against him. On completion of his two-year term, Srinivasan had unanimously won a year's extension at the Board's Annual General Meeting in Chennai on September 29.
After deliberating for weeks, the Supreme Court has finally cleared Srinivasan on the understanding that he will not interfere in Indian Premier League-related matters. Meanwhile, the apex court has approved a three-member probe panel to independently investigate allegations of corruption during the T20 league this year. The panel will be headed by former Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court Mukul Mudgal. The other members on the panel are senior advocate Niloy Dutta and Additional Solicitor General L. Nageswara Rao. The newly-appointed panel will have four months to submit its report and recommendations directly to the court.
The Supreme Court has asked the BCCI to co-operate with the probe panel and arrange for its travel and accommodation. The court has also directed the Board to pay Rs 1 lakh per working day to the panel.
"We want this committee to probe the spot-fixing and this committee will report to us," said A.K Patnaik, one of two judges hearing the case. The probe will be separate from continuing investigations by police, who have filed charges in court against a string of officials, players and bookmakers in the scandal.
Srinivasan, 68, widely regarded as the most powerful man in world cricket, had been barred from taking charge since his election as the BCCI chief for a third year on September 29 till the apex court disposed of a petition filed by the Cricket Association of Bihar. The Bihar association appealed that Srinivasan should stay away from the BCCI on moral grounds because his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan had been charged with betting during the IPL.
Meiyappan was the team principal of the Chennai Super Kings, the IPL franchise owned by Srinivasan's India Cements company and captained by national skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Srinivasan, who has not himself been accused of any wrongdoing, stepped aside temporarily as BCCI president in June when Meiyappan was named in the scandal. However, the apex court felt that the BCCI could not function without a chief and since Srinivasan has been elected "democratically" he could resume his duties.
All eyes will now be on the panel which has been agreed by both the BCCI and the Bihar association. Justice Mudgal is a known name in the sports world. In 2011, he was entrusted by the government to inquire into the spread of doping in sports. Mudgal had suggested that the National Anti-Doping Agency should be independent of the government.
Mudgal also headed the committee which made the draft recommendations for the National Sports Development Bill. The focus of his recommendations has been to clean up sports administration. The Bill bars a tainted person from contesting any election and also wants the BCCI to come under the RTI Act. Mudgal's panelists are well versed with cricket. Dutta is a senior advocate and has been associated with BCCI activities. Additional Solicitor General Rao is also a keen cricketer.
As for Srinivasan, he will have several key issues to address. Among others, Srinivasan will have to okay the venues for the two Tests and three one-dayers against the West Indies in November. There is a tug-o-war going on between Mumbai and Bengal over Sachin Tendulkar's 200th Test. In Mumbai, authorities of both Wankhede and Brabourne Stadiums are keen on hosting the milestone game.
From an international standpoint, Srinivasan also has to decide on India's tour of South Africa in December. The high-profile tour is in limbo with BCCI playing hardball against its South African counterpart, apparently because Cricket South Africa chose Haroon Lorgat as CEO much against Srinivasan's wishes. South Africa stand to lose at least 250 million Rands (1 Rand = Rs 6 approximately) if India refused to tour.