The Supreme Court’s last hearing on December 10 (summarised here) ended with the Court focusing-in on the necessity of ensuring the “purity of the sport” by, in particular, ensuring that officials avoid of conflicts of interest.1
On December 152, the Supreme Court proceeded with the Indian Premier League (IPL)3 6 scandal hearings, listening to arguments from Sundar Raman, Raj Kundra, and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)4, defending the robustness of the BCCI’s Regulations for Players, Team Officials, Managers, Umpires and Administrators, currently governing conflicts of interest (Rule 6.2.4), which states:
"6 REGULATIONS FOR ADMINISTRATORS
6.2.4 No Administrators shall have, directly or indirectly any commercial interest in the matches or events conducted by the Board excluding events like IPL or Champions League Twenty20.
Regulation 6.2.4 has been amended by including the words “excluding events like IPL or Champions League Twenty20”.5
The Court learned that the amendment to Rule 6.2.4 was made in September 2008 to facilitate the broadening of team ownership within the IPL and leadership in the BCCI. This concession is now under scrutiny for arguably allowing space for conflicts of interest to arise, damaging the sport and reputation of cricket.6
December 15 Hearing
The key points discussed were as follows:
- Sundar Raman7, IPL’s COO, was one of the four individuals named in the Mudgal Committee’s November Report for being in contact with a bookie eight times. The Supreme Court stated that Raman was facing allegations because he had witnessed the betting, but had not taken any action against it. The Supreme Court questioned why Raman had not reported his knowledge of the betting. Raman denied being aware of having any contact with bookies and has filed an affidavit in Court to that effect.8
- Raj Kundra (co-owner of Rajasthan Royals,Naphade continued with arguments for his client, Kundra, by explaining that any action taken against Kundra can only be decided under BCCI Rules. As the Mudgal Committee is not under the purview of the BCCI Rules, the Court can not decide how to proceed with Kundra’s allegations and should allow Kundra to challenge the Mudgal Report.11
- Moving forward, the Supreme Court revisited Rule 6.2.4 of the BCCI’s Rules and decide how to address the implications of conflicts of interest that the 2008 amendment created.
The Mudgal Committee’s November Report also explained that Raman had knowledge of Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra’s involvement in betting. However, Raman was told by the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ICC-ACSU) chief that the information Raman reported was not actionable.9
Rajeev Dhavan, senior counsel representing former BCCI president, I.S. Bindra, reiterated the need to properly assess Rule 6.2.4. Dhavan noted that Rule 6.2.4 seems to have been amended to give Srinivasan the power to be involved in the BCCI and the IPL. Importantly, Dhavan identified the crux of the Rule 6.2.4 amendment dispute as a matter of finding a balance between the BCCI’s public and commercial interests. Though the BCCI explained that Rule 6.2.4 was not amended to encourage any sort of conflict of interest by the governing officials, Dhavan argued that it is difficult to comprehend the amendment being made for any other purpose.
Nalini Chidambaram, senior counsel representing Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB)13, confirmed that CAB is already challenging this Rule and wants their new petition against the BCCI to be heard at the ongoing hearings.14
The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) suit15 filed by CAB seeks to have Srinivasan banned from contesting the BCCI elections for president because of his alleged conflicts of interest. The PIL also argues that because Gurunath Meiyappan, Srinivasan’s son-in-law and a team official of Chennai Super Kings (CSK), was found guilty of betting, the IPL team and franchise CSK should be disqualified.16
The December 16 and 17 hearing continued to address and resolve the same matter around Rule 6.2.4.
December 16 Hearing
Keeping the focus on the “purity of the sport” at the December 16 hearing, the Supreme Court directed the BCCI to submit a list of sports administrators who have a commercial interest in the IPL and Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20)17, both tournaments that are part of the exception added to Rule 6.2.4 in September 2008. The special bench of the Supreme Court hearing the IPL 6 scandal case hoped to understand if and how many other officials would be affected if Rule 6.2.4 were to no longer remain effective as it stands after the 2008 exception. 18,19
There seemed to be a disagreement between the BCCI and the Supreme Court on the Court adjudicating on the BCCI Rules, to which the Supreme Court has replied that the BCCI has to prove its case to the Court and should not assume that the Supreme Court has no governing power over the BCCI Rules.20
With the Supreme Court’s request of the list of officials from the BCCI, the hearings continued on December 17.
December 17 Hearing
At the December 17 hearing, the BCCI listed a few renowned players in the list of those officials with commercial interests in the IPL and CLT20. Among those listed were “former India captains Sunil Gavaskar, Sourav Ganguly, Ravi Shastri and Krishnamachari Srikkanth besides Lalchand Rajput and Venkatesh Prasad...”.21
Justice T.S. Thakur, one of the two judges on the special bench, highlighted a significant difference, explaining that Gavaskar, who is also a commentator, has no bearing on the result of the matches, whereas Srinivasan can affect the outcome of a match.22
Nalini Chidambaram, representing CAB, argued for the Supreme Court to appoint another probe committee to further investigate the IPL 6 scandal on the basis of what was already reported in the Mudgal Committee report. Chidambaram and CAB had been asked by the Supreme Court whether there was a provision in the BCCI rules that would prohibit Srinivasan from contesting the elections. Chidambaram did not identify a relevant provision, but explained that “higher principles of institutional integrity would keep him away.”23
As the December 17 hearing concluded with arguments from the respective counsels, the Supreme Court decided to reserve its verdict on the PIL plea filed by CAB, which, as stated above, argues for Srinivasan to be barred from contesting the BCCI elections, as well as disqualify CSK.24
The Supreme Court is now on holiday from December 19 till January 5.25 The IPL hearing will resume in January after the Court is back in session.