December 1 Hearing
The Supreme Court’s IPL 6 spot fixing hearings resumed on December 1, 2014, with the focus on the conflict of interest allegations against Srinivasan.
Prior hearings in November - immediately following the release of the Mudgal Committee's November report (summarised here)1 - established that during IPL 6 Srinivasan was the President of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)2 and Managing Director for India Cements, which owns the IPL franchise, Chennai Super Kings. 3
The court placed the burden of proof on Srinivasan (who is represented by lawyer, Kapil Sibal) to demonstrate that there were no conflicts of interest arising out of his coexisting positions. Sibal began by noting that there were no conflict of interest allegations mentioned against Srinivasan in the Mudgal Committee report, and identified other individuals who had also been involved as administrators with the BCCI and the IPL.4
Sibal maintained that Srinivasan was not conflicted by his dual roles by drawing the court’s attention to four key factual arguments5:
- His purchase of the IPL Team was pre-approved: Srinivasan was cleared to buy Chennai Super Kings (CSK) by the BCCI president at the time, Sharad Pawar.
- He took immediate action against Meiyappan after he faced accusations of his direct involvement in illegal betting and contact with betters : Sibal argued that Srinivasan took immediate action, regardless of his position in the BCCI and Indian Cements, against Gurunath Meiyappan, Srinivasan’s son-in-law.
- He took steps to distance himself from BCCI: Srinivasan agreed to distance himself from the BCCI while the spot-fixing investigations were underway, even though he was facing allegations and had not been convicted.
- He did not help compose the BCCI panel to probe the IPL 6 scandal: Sibal argued that Srinivasan was not a part of the nominating committee who created the BCCI probe panel for the IPL 6 scandal.
The Supreme Court replied to Sibal’s fourth point by noting that the reports relating to the nomination of the BCCI probe panel were incomplete, making it difficult to prove who was in charge when the panel was appointed, owing to a discrepancy in the dates of the incomplete report.6
Consequently the Court directed the BCCI to disclose in court all of its IPL-related (and specifically financial) records as it presses to decide on Srinivasan’s case7 with the BCCI’s AGM then looming on December 17.8
On a related note, Srinivasan confirmed during the December 1 hearing that MS Dhoni (Indian captain) will not be asked to resign.9
The BCCI Conflict of Interest regulation
The conflict of interest allegations against Srinivasan emanate from Article 6.2.4 of the BCCI Rules and Regulations,10 which state:
"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”."
The exception clause was added to the rule on September 27, 2008, before Srinivasan had joined as president, and was timed when the Indian Premier League (IPL)11 and Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20)12 were both introduced to Indian cricket in 2008.13, 14
The petitioner in the IPL case, Aditya Verma, unsuccessfully argued against this amendment to the Rule on the basis that it was noncompliant with public policy laws; an argument that the Bombay High Court dismissed as the evidence presented was insufficiently compelling.15
This Rule is still playing a central role in the IPL 6 scandal, as there seemed to be a disagreement in Srinivasan’s exact role in the BCCI and his actions concerning the BCCI’s panel investigating the IPL 6 scandal.
December 8 Hearing
The December 8 hearing addressed two main points:16
- The Supreme Court put that it was hard to accept that there was no conflict of interest in Srinivasan’s involvement as BCCI president and CSK owner. The Court placed their focus on “maintaining the purity of sport”, explaining that sports administrators should ideally remain neutral in matters concerning the BCCI and IPL. With the Supreme Court advising Indian sports administrators to refrain from creating any arguable case of biases within the sport’s management, Srinivasan’s role in the BCCI and IPL became a concern for the concept of “purity” of cricket.
- The BCCI requested that they should be allowed to pass any orders against the two IPL teams in question, CSK and Rajasthan Royals (RR), and that the Supreme Court should not have a say in deciding any punishment against the IPL teams. To this, the Supreme Court asked how the BCCI proposes Srinivasan fairly decide any punishment against the IPL team that he owns?
The Supreme Court did not passed any decisions on the above mentioned points, and continued hearing remaining arguments on December 9.
December 9 Hearing
The December 9 hearing17 began with the Supreme Court claiming that the BCCI rules relating to the conflict of interest regulations (as noted above) were amended for the president and vice president’s benefit.
The Court continued to emphasize that it wanted to take immediate action against Meiyappan, which had been the focus the the previous weeks. In order to proceed with any further action, the Court asked the BCCI to give possible options on how to issue punishments based on the Mudgal Committee Report. To this the BCCI suggested to the Supreme Court five options for determining punitive action against Srinivasan and Meiyappan18:
- The BCCI disciplinary committee decides the appropriate punishment.
- The Supreme Court appoints an independent two-member committee, with no previous connection to the BCCI.
- Upon Court nomination, select members from the IPL governing council decide the punishment.
- The Court creates a two- member committee of former judges to issue punishment.
- The Mudgal Committee decides punishment.
The Supreme Court only considered, though did not officially approve, option four: to appoint a two-member committee with former judges.19 The Court appointed committee of former judges would focus on Srinivasan’s role in the BCCI and IPL, as well as whether Srinivasan and Meiyappan should be punished.20
It should be noted that the Supreme Court bench also questioned Srinivasan’s place in the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) at this hearing, to which Srinivasan replied that he should not have been involved after he agreed to distance himself from IPL-related matters.21
At this point in the hearing, the Court had not passed any official order, nor was the BCCI planning on issuing its own related sanctions. The Court decided to resume the hearing at 2pm IST on December 9. 22
The afternoon on December 9, 2014 was more conclusive, as the Supreme Court rejected the above mentioned option four, and explained that for integrity an external, independent body without any affiliation with CSK and Meiyappan needs to be appointed to review and decide appropriate punishments for the findings in the Mudgal Committee’s report. The purpose of the independent committee would be to decide punishment for CSK and Meiyappan.24
The Supreme Court also asked Srinivasan to decide between two options25:
- Either, continue to be the owner of CSK;
- Or, Contest for the role of President in the BCCI elections.
This was not issued as a binding order from the Court however.
Sibal, Srinivasan’s lawyer, continued to maintain Srinivasan’s innocence, arguing at the end of the hearing that:
- There is no basis to indict for Srinivasan so he should be able to freely run for BCCI President; and
- With an appeal to Srinivasan’s reputation, Kapil explained that there were no cases against Srinivasan in all his years in cricket leadership26
As one of the final points in the hearing, Srinivasan asked for details of the alleged cover up that he is said to have been involved in.27
The petitioner in this case, Aditya Verma, reiterated his point that he wants the full Mudgal Report to be released to the public.28
December 10 Hearing
The hearing continued on December 10, with the Supreme Court surprisingly instructing the BCCI to postpone its AGM meeting to elect office bearers till January 31, 2015.29
Srinivasan responded to the two options the Supreme Court presented in the last hearing, by choosing to prioritize the BCCI presidential election over his CSK ownership. In that, Srinivasan decided that he would disassociate himself with the IPL governing council until the Supreme Court resolves the conflict of interest allegations, and if he is allowed to contest and is re-elected as BCCI president.30
In an undertaking submitted by Sibal to the court on his client’s behalf, Srinivasan also clarified that he would not associate with the IPL, IPL- related matters, or BCCI general body meetings until the Court determines how to proceed with the conflict of interests allegations.31
The Court did not make a decision on whether the CSK should be disqualified from the IPL or Srinivasan’s conflict of interest allegations.32
The December 10 hearing also covered three other major points of contention:
- The BCCI’s decision to oppose the Supreme Court’s proposal
- The BCCI argued that the presence of such a committee would breach their autonomy as an organization, and further that the governing council of the BCCI should make such decisions.33
- BCCI later explained that they may be able to reach a compromise by allowing the committee appointed by the Court, but have the external committee’s decisions not considered binding (this was also mentioned in Srinivasan’s undertaking to the Court).34
- Meiyappan choosing not to disclose whether he was a CSK official:
- Though the BCCI and India Cements had both agreed that the Mudgal Committee’s classification of Meiyappan as a CSK official was accurate, Meiyappan chose not to confirm or deny this by referencing his “right to silence”. 35
- Siddharth Luthra, Meiyappan’s lawyer, argued that the source and evidence (based on findings from the Mumbai Police) referenced in the Mudgal Committee’s report were baseless and not tested.36
- Whether Meiyappan is an CSK official seems to have a bearing on whether CSK will be suspended. 37
- Kundra’s lawyer, Shekhar Naphade, argued against all allegations Kundra is facing:
- Because Kundra’ franchise was not given notice, Kundra is not a share owner, and as the Committee apparently did not follow the BCCI rules on natural justice and by not giving him a chance to appeal, Naphade objected to all allegations Kundra is currently facing.38
On a related note, India Cements’ lawyer, Mahesh Jethmalani, unsuccessfully argued that because Meiyappan’s involvement in betting was from home and not in public capacity, the official’s betting actions with CSK should not take the full burden for a team’s suspension.39
As seen earlier in the IPL hearings, the Supreme Court kept its focus on the purity of the sport, and voiced that the confidence in the sport needs to be restored. With this, the Supreme Court set the next set of hearings to commence on December 15, which will be reported on in due course.40