Judge's oral observation: till main suit is decided, let him resign as BCCI member or give up IPL franchise
There was no conflict of interest in India Cements bidding for Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League and its Managing Director N. Srinivasan being the Secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), argued senior counsel Rohinton Nariman, appearing for Mr. Srinivasan in the Supreme Court on Thursday.
A Bench of Justices J.M. Panchal and Gyan Sudha Misra is hearing an appeal filed by the former BCCI president, A.C. Muthiah, against an interim order of the Madras High Court declining to interfere with a BCCI regulation which made an exclusion of events such as IPL, Champions League or Twenty20, for administrators to have directly or indirectly any commercial interest in the matches or events conducted by the board.
Mr. Nariman argued that there was no conflict of interest as Mr. Srinivasan was one among the 12 Directors of India Cements, which bid for CSK. He said that even when this resolution was taken up by the Board, Mr. Srinivasan did not participate in the said meeting. Counsel said Mr. Srinivasan was a Member of the BCCI in his capacity as the president of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association.
Defending the amendment, he said there was no allegation against the other nine members of the Working Committee which passed the amendment, which was later approved by the general body of the BCCI.
At this juncture, Justice Ms. Sudha intervened and observed: “The allegation is you [Mr. Srinivsan] had influenced the decision because you have a franchise for the IPL.” Counsel asserted as Managing Director of India Cements, Mr. Srinivasan was only in charge of the day-to-day affairs of the company and it was the decision of the company to bid for IPL and not his personal decision.
Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, who also appeared for Mr. Srinivasan, asserted that the suit was not maintainable as it was actuated by mala fides as Mr. Muthiah lost the TNCA elections. He said Mr. Muthiah wanted to prevent Mr. Srinivasan from contesting the BCCI election for the post of president and for this purpose only he was seeking an injunction.
Justice Ms. Sudha asked Mr. Rohatgi: “Is it correct for him [Mr. Srinivasan] to say that he will continue as a Member of the BCCI and also bid for the IPL. We give you a choice. Till the main suit is decided let him resign as a Member of the BCCI and continue his IPL franchise or give up his franchise and be a BCCI Member. You can't have both and say there is no conflict of interest. What prejudice will be caused if you exercise this option?” Justice Ms. Sudha further asked counsel: “Can a major policy decision to amend the rule be taken by the working committee.” She, however, clarified that these were all oral observations and not final judgment.
Mr. Rohatgi replied that the working committee's decision was later approved by the general body of the BCCI. He said: “The choice could not be put to me as I am not the owner of Chennai Super Kings. It is India Cements which is the owner. I am only one of the 12 directors. Tomorrow I may sell all my shares and go out. Grave prejudice will be caused if any injunction is granted as virtually it will prevent me from contesting for the president's post.”
In his reply, senior counsel Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for Mr. Muthiah said the suit was maintainable as Mr. Muthiah being the former president of the BCCI would come within the ambit of ‘administrator.' Reading out the relevant clauses, he said there should not be any conflict of interest either directly or indirectly in the matches organised by the BCCI. In this case even assuming there was no direct conflict of interest, there was indirect conflict of interest.
Arguments will continue on September 21.