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The Supreme Court on Monday told N. Srinivasan that before seeking reinstatement as BCCI president, he should address the question of conflict of interest that arose if he headed the cricket board while owning an IPL team, whose official has been found to be involved in betting, .

A Bench of Justices T.S. Thakur and Ibrahim Kalifulla told Kapil Sibal, counsel of Mr. Srinivasan, “You are the owner of a team [Chennai Super Kings] in IPL. Would it not be a conflict of interest? You first address this issue before we allow you to continue as president.”

Mr. Sibal said that in March, Mr. Srinivasan volunteered to step down till he was cleared of the charges and the Mudgal panel had cleared him of the charges of betting and match-fixing. As there was no interference in the investigation, he should be reinstated as president. He told the Bench that the conflict-of-interest issue was not before the court and owning a team was permitted.

When Mr. Sibal asked the court, “What will happen to my [Mr. Srinivasan’s] elections?,” Justice Thakur orally observed, “You are only assuming that you have been given a clean chit. Don’t go by the Mudgal panel conclusions alone. The question is whether you should at all be serving the BCCI. The conflict of interest is a serious issue. IPL is a mutually beneficial society between IPL and BCCI. The benefit of doubt should go in favour of the game rather than any individual.”

“The ownership of the team raises conflict of interest. The president of BCCI has to run the show, but you have a team which raises questions and it can’t be wished away. You can’t make a distinction between BCCI and IPL. IPL is a by-product of BCCI. One of the employees [Gurunath Meiyappan] of your team was involved in betting. You have to reply because it will affect the dignity and position of BCCI president.”

The court made it clear to the BCCI that it must uphold the glory of the game as it was a religion to millions of people in this country. The Bench told Aryama Sundaram, BCCI counsel, “Cricket must be played in its true spirit and should remain a gentleman’s game. If you allow these things to happen, then you are killing the game of cricket.”

Justice Thakur orally observed, “You [BCCI] want to sit over the liquidation of the game? If people know that a game is fixed, who will visit the stadium? In India, cricket is like a religion. Recognition comes when one lakh people in Eden Gardens applaud. The BCCI is killing it.”

Earlier, Mr. Sundaram assured the court that the BCCI would take whatever action that was required against those found guilty by the Mudgal panel in accordance with the rules and regulations. He requested the court not to reveal the identities of the players till the probe was completed. Mr. Sundaram said there was no conflict of interest as under the IPL rules, an administrator was allowed to own a team.

Justice Thakur told counsel, “You have no option but to act against the guilty. You are not doing a favour. Can BCCI president own a team? How far is this fair?”

Mr. Sundaram explained that under the IPL governing council rules, whenever a decision pertaining to a team was taken, its owner was kept out of the decision-making process. Justice Thakur asked counsel, “Who forms the governing council of the IPL? And when BCCI takes any decision, will the President remain a mute spectator? Will there not be a clash of interest if BCCI president owns a team in IPL?”

Arguments will continue on Tuesday.

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