The “sealed envelope”, submitted by the Justice Mukul Mudgal panel, may well have sealed the fate of Narayanswami Srinivasan, President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The sagest of all umpires has spoken. The Supreme Court, no less, has called time on Srinivasan and asked him to step down to ensure a fair and dispassionate inquiry into betting allegations in the Indian Premier League.
The court may not have pronounced its verdict yet — at the time of writing this, the court had already heard the matter once and further hearing is scheduled to continue. The matter could continue for a while even after that.
On the day’s proceedings in the court, a bench comprising Justices AK Patnaik and Ibrahim Kalifulla made it clear to BCCI’s counsel saying “You ask Mr Srinivasan to step down, otherwise we will give our verdict asking him to step down.” The reports added that Justice Patnaik also said, “We find that unless the BCCI president steps down, there won’t be a fair inquiry. The man at the top must go. Why are you (Mr Srinivasan) sticking to the post, it is nauseating. You (Mr Sundaram) should be honest as a counsel and not as a lawyer for Mr Srinivasan.”
It could not have been more damning. Then, there is the “sealed envelope”, which has been at the centre of a lot of speculation. It was after seeing the contents of that envelope that Justice Patnaik is said to have told the BCCI counsel that Srinivasan must step down.
Interestingly, the counsel, who claimed to not know what the sealed cover contained, is also said to have been shown the “conclusions” by the Supreme Court bench, which felt the allegations were serious enough to warrant a thorough probe by an external agency.
But, what is also saddening is that it required the apex court to use such strong words for three other men — the three BCCI vice-presidents — to “ask” Srinivasan to quit. The word is out that the three vice-presidents from the South (Shivlal Yadav), East (Chitrak Mitra) and West (Ravi Sawant) zones have asked Srinivasan to resign. While the Court has not pronounced Srinivasan guilty yet, its observation makes it clear that all is not well in Indian cricket, something most Indians would concur with.
By the time this piece appears in print, the Supreme Court may have ordered Srinivasan to step down, or hopefully, the man may have done it himself. The BCCI and Srinivasan’s continued cussedness, even in the face of such damning accusations, raises other questions: Do they have more to hide than what even the Justice Mudgal report may have unearthed or mentioned? Are there any specific names of top cricketers or officials? Or, is there some financial wrangling involved?
Srinivasan has claimed that he has done no wrong. That may be so. But his own son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan’s name figured very prominently in the betting allegations. Surely, that is reason enough for him to step down. The last time he did so, he managed to get Jagmohan Dalmiya to hold fort for a while. Last July, a two-member BCCI-appointed panel — two retired judges, T Jayaram Chouta and R Balasubramanian — had found “no evidence of any wrongdoing” on the part of Gurunath and Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra. Soon after that, Srinivasan came back to occupy his President’s post. Since then, BCCI themselves have levied a fine on Royals! But what about Meiyappan and Chennai Super Kings?
The BCCI and the powers that be may have ridden roughshod over other members of the Board, the media and public, but it surely cannot do the same with the Supreme Court, who are not likely to be impressed by any patch-work.
Does it not occur to Srinivasan that any probe conducted with him at the helm, will always look fishy? He should realise that if he wants to prove himself innocent, he needs to resign from his post and allow a proper probe to be conducted by an external agency. That is the only way he can come out of this mess with a “clean” image.