Invoking the spirit of ‘Satyameva Jayate’ — the national motto which means truth alone prevails — the Supreme Court on Thursday raised the heat on the BCCI, saying this year’s IPL tournament could be allowed to start on April 16 only if Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals were kept out in view of the corruption charges involving their players and officials.
A bench of Justices AK Patnaik and FM I Kalifulla also proposed replacing BCCI chief N Srinivasan with former Indian skipper Sunil Gavaskar as its interim head until the court decides the IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal case. The court also said employees of Srinivasan’s firm India Cements, which owns CSK, should be kept out of the BCCI. The board has been asked to reply to the proposals on Friday when the court has said it will will pass appropriate orders.
After a rap on the knuckles by the court on Tuesday, Srinivasan told the court that he was willing to step aside and not function as the BCCI chief till a probe into the IPL corruption saga was on. He pressed for a time-bound probe. While underscoring his statement, the bench said that for the time-being it will not pass any order on his removal, but would definitely lay down conditions for IPL-7 to go on in the wake of the incriminating findings by the Mudgal panel which was appointed by the court.
“This is what we propose to do regarding the IPL. We will say Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals are not going to be allowed. We will pass orders tomorrow,” the bench said.
BCCI counsel CA Sundaram maintained it was difficult to rescind a franchisee agreement just like that, but the court reminded him how the board suspended Rajasthan Royals part-owner Raj Kundra and also Srinivasan's son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan for betting in sports.
“If you can do this for them, you can do this for the team as well. You must be having such powers under the rules. Then, this is going to be only an interim arrangement. We are going to hear you before passing final orders,” it said.
The court asked the BCCI to get in touch with Gavaskar and ask him if he would want to take up the assignment and also check if he may have any conflict of interest while discharging the role.
The bench emphasised on the “integrity” of the cricketers and the game while regretting nobody seemed to be bothered about values and discipline anymore. “Who is bothered about values? Why will people, who are in power, listen to anyone else? But we realise 'Satyameva Jayate' and the truth shall ultimately prevail. This may take some time, but, ultimately, the truth will come out,” it remarked.
The court said that taking decisions could be difficult, but it shall do so in the interest of cricket and in the interest of the nation.
It also said that cricket was not anymore the game that was played with a “straight bat” , as Harish Salve, counsel for petitioner Cricket Association of Bihar, contended that cricket was known to be a gentleman's game that could inculcate discipline.
Salve also accused Srinivasan and Indian captain M S Dhoni of a “brazen cover-up” in asserting Meiyappan was only a sports enthusiast and not a CSK team official whereas the probe panel categorically trashed their “false statement”.
He pointed out that CSK and RR will be participating in IPL-7 despite such serious allegations.
On Tuesday, the court had effectively given Srinivasan an ultimatum to step down by Thursday or risk being removed by it. However, as Srinivasan volunteered to step aside, it did not pass any explicit order to this effect but came up with its sweeping set of proposals.
Dhoni in a spot, not spotlight
The role of Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the alleged cover-up to protect BCCI chief N Srinivasan's son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan came under the scanner of the Supreme Court on Thursday. Dhoni is a vice-president at Srinivasan's firm, India Cements, and also captain of IPL team Chennai Super Kings, owned by India Cements.
Harish Salve, counsel for the Cricket Association of Bihar, told the court how Dhoni lied to the Mudgal Committee that Meiyappan was not a CSK official, but only a “cricket enthusiast” supporting the team.
While indicting Meiyappan for betting and passing on information of the game, the panel had trashed statements made to it by Srinivasan and Dhoni that he had nothing to do with the cricketing affairs of CSK. Salve said Dhoni testified to the panel as he was a vice-president at India Cements. “This runs very deep. I am very sorry to say this, but the BCCI Indian captain is also guilty of corrupt practices. Why did he choose to mislead the panel? Cover-up falls within the ambit of corruption under the BCCI rules. So, the skipper has left himself open to such scrutiny,” Salve said.
The court asked Salve if it was on record that Dhoni was a vice-president at India Cements. The lawyer read out from a FIR registered in connection with betting and spot-fixing in a match between CSK and Rajasthan Royals in which the Jaipur Police described Dhoni as a vice-president at India Cements.
Salve demanded a CBI probe, alleging serious conflict of interest by Dhoni and others.