'Cricket is a religion in the country and the purest form of the game must be restored'
'If the people come to know that matches are fixed then nobody would come to watch the game'
Putting a spanner on Narayanaswami Srinivasan's bid to get reinstated as president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the Supreme Court on Monday said it will look into the 'conflict of interest' issue arising from him being head of the board and owning an IPL team whose official was found to be involved in betting.
Observing that it is a "serious issue that can't be wished away", the apex court also made it clear that it will consider the conduct of his son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, an official of Chennai Super Kings, while deciding his plea to get back his post from which he had to step aside in June last year in view of the IPL-6 betting and spot-fixing scandal.
"Please do not go by the report that you are not involved in the betting and spot-fixing and scuttling the probe. Despite all this your official is involved which will affect you," the bench, comprising justices T S Thakur and F M I Kalifulla, told Srinivasan's counsel, Kapil Sibal, who pleaded that the report has nothing against him.
"Don't presume anything," the bench said, adding, "You are contesting the election by saying that you are not involved but somebody close to you is involved."
At the outset, the bench raised questions on how Srinivasan can own a team while being president of the Board. It said "the BCCI and IPL cannot be separated and is a creature or product or by-product of BCCI".
"Some people who are in the BCCI now own a team. It has become a mutual benefit society. The ownership of team raises conflict of interests. President of BCCI has to run the show but you have a team which raises questions and it can't be wished away," it said.
Expressing serious concern over the cricket being bowled by the betting and spot-fixing scandal in IPL 6, the bench said "cricket is a religion in the country and the purest form of the game must be restored".
"If you are allowing these things to happen, you are killing the game and nobody will enter the stadium. If the people come to know that matches are fixed then nobody would come to watch the game. Will the people enter the stadium knowing that it is a farce," the bench said.
Cricket has to be played in the true spirit of the game and it should remain a gentleman's game, it stressed.
The bench said there is no option for the BCCI but to take action on the basis of the Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee report, which found aberrations in IPL-6.
"By and large people have passion for cricket. Cricket is like a religion in the country and people are passionate about it. People with no stakes are passionate. There are billions in the country who are passionate without any stakes," the bench said, adding, "You want to sit over the liquidation of the game".
"Can you afford to do that. You have to make sure that the game is played in its purest form and its reputation has to be protected. The benefit of doubt should go in favour of game and not in favour of individuals," it said.
"Your duty is to organise a show and keep away all the things which are happening. As a president what is your duty? All teams should have a level-playing team and nothing of this sort should happen. The purest form of game is to be played. You have to be above suspicion," it said.
The hearing remained inconclusive and will resume on Tuesday.
Image: A protester kicks a burning effigy of Indian cricket board (BCCI) President N Srinivasan during a protest demanding Srinivasan's resignation in Kolkata last May
Photo: Rupak De Chowdhuri