Noting that the “purity of the game” cannot be compromised at any cost, the Supreme Court on Monday questioned suspended BCCI president N. Srinivasan’s dual role as the head of the national cricketing body and IPL team owner, whose son-in-law has been found prima facie guilty of betting. Mr. Srinivasan defended himself saying he could not be charged with “vicarious criminal liability” for what his son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, allegedly did.
“Gurunath Meiyappan is being prosecuted. He has been suspended. I cannot be foisted with criminal vicarious liability for what my relative allegedly did. He can be prosecuted and sent to jail if the charges are proven guilty,” senior advocate Kapil Sibal told a Bench of Justices T.S. Thakur and Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla. He added that conflict of interest was no ground to disqualify him from contesting the BCCI polls.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal on Monday told the Supreme Court that the fact that N. Srinivasan was the BCCI president and the Managing Director of India Cements Limited, which owns Chennai Super Kings (CSK), does not by itself mean ‘conflict of interest’. He even ventured to suggest that the court direct the BCCI to frame comprehensive rules on conflict of interest to avoid “shadow boxing” like this in the future.
Mr. Sibal was responding to the Court’s questions on the suspended BCCI president Srinivasan’s dual role as the head of the national cricketing body and IPL team owner, whose son-in-law has been found prima facie guilty of betting.
“There is more than meets the eye here. CSK is one of the most valued franchise. These are attempts to dislodge me,” Mr. Sibal said.
He added that conflict of interest was no ground to disqualify Mr. Srinivasan from contesting the BCCI elections.
“It is globally accepted that conflict of interest occurs in every community, from telecom, sports to agriculture and in Parliament. The point is whether the person has actually misused his position to further personal interests,” he submitted.
Justice Kalifulla interjected to ask, “You are the MD of a franchisee which owns CSK and your son-in-law is a team official. Now there is prima facie evidence against Mr. Meiyappan. All this is not conflict of interest?”
When Mr. Sibal replied with an emphatic “no”, Justice Kalifulla responded saying it is “very difficult to accept that”.
Stepping up the tempo, Justice Kalifulla asked whether Mr. Srinivasan found no conflict of interest when the IPL contract with the BCCI had “you both as contractor and the head of the contracting party (BCCI)”.
“Let us for example say you are found involved in a case of betting. The betting allegation comes to the BCCI. But there you, as top administrator, will be deciding the outcome. Is this not conflict of interest?” Justice Kalifulla queried.
To this, Mr. Sibal reacted by saying that the court was merely “speculating.” “I have been given a clean chit by the Mudgal committee. Besides, betting is an offence and not conflict of interest,” he submitted.
Here, Justice Thakur intervened to say that the court was only safeguarding the purity of the game.
“We are thinking in the larger interest of the game. There should be no pointing of fingers at the game or the person in charge of it,” Justice Thakur observed.
“His passion for cricket can be understood if you see his contributions to the game in the past 50 years,” Mr. Sibal responded.