The Supreme Court Tuesday reserved its order on setting up a panel to probe allegations of spot-fixing and betting against some of the cricketers playing the Indian Premier League (IPL) and inaction by BCCI president N. Srinivasan. A bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla reserved the order after it was told that Justice (retd) Mukul Mudgal has consented to head the panel to investigate these allegations.
When Srinivasan’s counsel Mukul Rohtagi contended that his position should be restored if the court was entrusting the investigation to an outside agency, the court, not inclined to budge from its position to have an independent investigation, asked: “Do you think till investigations are over he (Srinivasan) should stay (as the head of the cricketing body?” “Since BCCI itself is not probing (the allegations) then the management of the cricketing body should be restored with a rider that he (Srinivasan) will not interfere into the probe,” he said.
As Rohtagi said there was no finding in the report against Srinivasan, Justice Patnaik said: “It is all in your interest and Srinivasan that we should not read it (allegation given to the court in sealed cover by Mudgal Committee) out in the open court.”
“I have not spoken to the secretary general (of the apex court). What you say may not be entirely correct,” he said as Rohtagi told the court that audio recording of the Indian skipper M.S. Dhoni, Srinivasan and IPL’s chief operating officer Sunder Raman’s interaction with Mudgal Inquiry Committee nowhere recorded their having described Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan as a “cricket enthusiast”.
“To find out what you are saying is right or what the probe committee (has said) then we will have to go to the video room to see,” Justice Patnaik said. Rohtagi said the court was hearing the plea by the Cricket Association of Bihar which is not even affiliated to BCCI but was allegedly a front for A.C. Muthiah and (Lalit) Modi. “Which Modi you are talking about,” Justice Patnaik asked and Rohtagi clarified he meant Lalit Modi, who headed the IPL initially and not BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. The court felt that the ongoing hearings could be postponed till September by which time, the probe panel will submit its findings.
At the outset of the hearing, senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for Mudgal Committee, told the court that Justice Mudgal, while agreeing to undertake the probe, said he would like to be assisted by former CBI special director M.L. Sharma and three police officers, one each from Delhi Police, Mumbai police and Chennai police, not below the rank of assistant commissioners of police. Subramaniam told the court that the probe panel would also require the assistance of a former cricketer of “repute and integrity”.
In a six-point note given to the court, he said the probe panel and the investigating officers and those assisting it would have investigating powers and could take assistance of police of states where it would undertake investigation as well as that of Sports Integrity Authority and CBI’s Anti-Corruption Unit and any other agency or department of the central or state governments.
The Supreme Court, during the last hearing of the matter, asked whether Justice Mudgal is inclined to preside over the probe panel. However, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) resisted the probe panel, saying that the allegations against the cricketers and Srinivasan are based on an inquiry conducted by Justice Mudgal himself, and investigation into those allegations should be undertaken by a different person.
“Let this material (allegations) be looked into by a fresh face or a committee because Mudgal Inquiry Committee has given the report on the basis of views expressed before it,” said senior counsel C.A. Sundaram, who appeared for BCCI. He sought time till Wednesday so that he could know the views of the BCCI on investigation being handed over to Mudgal panel. Apparently unimpressed by the submission, Justice Patnaik said the court will pass a judicial order and reserved it.