New Delhi, Dec 9: In another difficult day for side-stepped BCCI president N Srinivasan, the Supreme Court Monday questioned his intention, asking why he was adopting a detour to attend the cricketing body's working committee meeting after stating his desire to keep himself out of the decision-making process for the sake of transparency.
"On one hand, you say that I want to be out of decision-making process, you set aside and enter through Tamil Nadu Cricket Association route in the decision-making process (the working committee)," said the apex court bench of Justice TS Thakur and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla.
Taking a dig at Srinivasan for wearing different hats before the court in his avowed reluctance to discharge the functions as BCCI president, the court said: "As recent as three weeks back you were participating in the BCCI meeting. You should have followed in spirit (your offer to the court). We can understand your passion for the game but you should keep yourself aside."
Pointing out that Srinivasan was to act in the spirit of the decision to stay away from the functioning of the BCCI, the court, which was told that he was placed in the situation of conflict or nepotism, said: "You stepped aside and started attending the working committee meeting as TNCA president. The whole idea was that you should distance yourself from the working of BCCI."
"In retrospect it may be correct. I take the point. I think the spirit should have been followed," said senior counsel Kapil Sibal who argued for Srinivasan.
The court's observations came in the course of the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Cricket Association of Bihar. The PIL seeks to keep Srinivasan out of BCCI on the grounds of conflict of interest and also the cancellation of Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Chennai Super Kings on the allegation of betting by Srinivasan's son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan.
The apex court appointed senior BCCI vice-president Shiv Lal Yadav March 28 to take over as the functioning BCCI president and asked cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar to look after the affairs of the then ongoing IPL tournament.
Srinivasan, in a written statement to the court, said then that he would stay away from the working of cricketing body till allegations against him were investigated.
"Mr. N Srinivasan, the President of the BCCI, has made a written offer through his counsel that till investigation into the allegations against him is completed, he will not discharge any of the functions of the President of the BCCI," the court had recorded in its March 28 order.
'Your son-in-law has been indicted'
In the course of the hearing, the court asked Srinivasan: "You are BCCI president. Your son-in-law has been indicted. The question is who will punish him. Would it be a committee appointed by us? We can do it. We want BCCI to do it in a dispassionate, objective, and free from bias manner."
"We have a practical and realistic situation. Can we trust Srinivasan with the task," the court asked Sibal as he said: "You please distance me from that and appoint an agency and judges to undertake the exercise and action (Quantum of punishment). Please don't punish me vicariously for the acts of someone."
"There should not be an iota of doubt that I will directly or indirectly influence the course of action against my son-in-law," Sibal told the court.
At this the court asked: "Would that body not be competent to pronounce the quantum of punishment, that Srinivasan will not contest election for next ten years."
Sensing the possibility of what may befall on Srinivasan, senior counsel CA Sundaram, appearing for BCCI, said: "BCCI rules will decide the extent, form, grade and layers of punishment."
Sibal said his client Srinivasan wanted the court to appoint a disciplinary committee independent of BCCI to decide on the matter.
'Your investment in CSK will be in danger'
While Sibal wanted the said committee to confine itself to the findings of the Mudgal Committee only, senior counsel Nalini Chidambram wanted that such a committee, if formed, should also examine the question of conflict of interest and alleged cover-up by Srinivasan.
Sibal said he had no problem if the committee examined the question of conflict of interest in general terms but not in the context of the allegation specific against Srinivasan. He also said that conflict of interest should not result in a penalty but post facto it can be addressed to deal with it.
At this, the court said that if the High Level Committee comes to the conclusion that conflict of interest arose in the sporting event then for the sake of the purity of the game, it can't be allowed.
"If you want to continue as president of BCCI then your investment in CSK will be in danger," the court said.
At this, Sibal said: "My client should not be prevented from contesting election. He has his rights. It will affect his reputation."