New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday reserved its verdict on the plea for barring N. Srinivasan from seeking re-election the Indian cricket board president and for terminating IPL franchisee Chennai Super Kings (CSK), owned by his company India Cements Limited, on the grounds of conflict of interest.
The petitioner Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB) sought the ouster of Srinivasan from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on the grounds that he was placed in a "conflict of interest" situation on account of his duties as the head of the apex cricketing body of the country and his interest as owner of CSK.
Srinivasan is the vice-chairman and managing director of India Cements Limited that owns IPL franchisee Chennai Super Kings.
The petitioner has also sought the termination of CSK following the indictment of Srinivasan's son-in-law and team official Gurunath Meiyappan for betting in the IPL 2013.
The CAB had also challenged the amendment to the BCCI Rule 6.2.4 that permitted Srinivasan to have IPL franchisee CSK without attracting the provision of "conflict of interest".
Rule 6.2.4 of the BCCI constitution prohibits the office-bearers of the apex cricketing body from having any direct or indirect commercial interest in the cricketing events organised by it. The rule on the conflict of interest was amended Sep 27, 2008, by which the IPL and Champions League Twenty20 were excluded from its ambit.
The apex court bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla reserved the verdict after senior counsel C.A. Sundaram for the BCCI, Kapil Sibal for N. Srinivasan, Nalini Chidambram for the CAB, and Rajeev Dhavan for former BCCI president I.S. Bindra concluded their arguments.
Addressing the court on the amendment to the BCCI rule prohibiting the "conflict of interest", Sundaram told the court that exemption was carved out for the IPL and the Champions League Twenty20 from the contentious clause so that a wide spectrum of cricketing experts like players of repute could be associated with it to share their expertise and in return get some commercial gains.
In this context, he mentioned the names of legendary cricketers Sunil Gavaskar, Sourav Gangly, Anil Kumble, Ravi Shastri, Lal Chand Rajput, Venketesh Prasad and K. Srikkanth who are in dual role of being associated with the BCCI and also involved in the IPL.
As Sundaram sought to put Srinivasan and these players on the same plane, the court asked how could the commercial interests rooted in returns on investment of Rs.400 crore by India Cements Limited in CSK could be equated with players making an earning by sharing their expertise.
Justice Thakur said that Gavaskar, as a commentator, and others are sharing their expertise but have no stake in the outcome of the match, which is not the case of Srinivasan who has a stake in CSK.
Counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for Srinivasan, told the court: "If court finds that there is an irreconcilable 'conflict of interest' between me being the president of the BCCI and owner of CSK, then pass an order against me."
However, having said this, Sibal sought to rationalise the situation in which Srinivasan was placed by saying there is "hardly any human activity, private or public, which does not involve potential 'conflict of interest'."
He said such a situation could be addressed by putting in place a mechanism to look over the issue.
Sibal said that judges selecting judges for appointment to higher judiciary is also a "conflict of interest" situation, but it is resolved through the process that is involved in the appointment of judges.
The senior counsel said that the "question that is troubling the court is: how can you (Srinivasan) be the owner of CSK and also the president of BCCI would not involve 'conflict of interest'."
That also involves giving Rs.16 crore to yourself (as compensation after Champions League Twenty20 was abandoned after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack), Sibal said. The court told Sibal the same amount was given to other teams also and not to CSK alone.
"That apart from giving to yourself, you also gave it to other (teams) that does not mitigate the 'conflict of interest' you are involved in," court told Sibal.
Sibal told the court that in several international sports bodies, including International Olympic Committee, the "conflict of interest" is prohibited but not the potential "conflict of interest".
Nalini Chidambram, who appeared for the CAB, urged the court to set up a probe committee that would further investigate on the basis of the finding given by the Mudgal panel in its report.
Chidambram told the court that the sub-committee that recommended the amendment to the rules prohibiting the "conflict of interest" was set up for framing provisions for anti-doping and anti-racism.
She told the court that this committee did not suggest amendment to the rule prohibiting "conflict of interest" and made no recommendation of provision to prevent or curb doping and racism in the game.
Chidambram said that though there are no provisions in the BCCI rules that bar Srinivasan from contesting election, the higher principles of institutional integrity would keep him away.
CAB counsel said this in response to a query from the court if there was anything in the BCCI rules that comes in the way of Srinivasan contesting the election.