'We are still in the process of hearing which will take some time to conclude,' the Supreme Court observed, while directing postponement of the BCCI's December 17 Annual General Meeting for office-bearers' election till January 31, 2015.
Gurunath Meiyappan, who is indicted by the Justice Mudgal Committee for betting in the IPL, maintained that he would not like to disclose whether he was a team official of Chennai Super Kings or not, as any disclosure would prejudice him in the trial court where he is facing a betting case.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday deferred the Board of Control for Cricket in India elections till the end of January even as the cricket body opposed the constitution of an external high-powered committee to propose punishment on the Mudgal Committee's findings in the betting and spot-fixing scam in the Indian Premier League.
A bench, headed by Justice T S Thakur, also posed questions like should the actions of Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra lead to cancellation of IPL teams Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals.
"We are still in the process of hearing which will take some time to conclude," the bench observed at the end of yet another day-long hearing, while directing postponement of the BCCI's December 17 Annual General Meeting for office-bearers' election till January 31, 2015.
The bench, also comprising Justice F M I Kalifulla, said its decisions on several issues arising out of the IPL 6 betting and spot-fixing scam, including the conflict of interest involving BCCI president-in-exile Narayanswami Srinivasan, will take more time.
It passed the order after senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Srinivasan, said since the hearing is not likely to complete before December 17, the election for office-bearers needs to be postponed, a point it agreed with.
The BCCI counsel said the Board will have to issue notice of three weeks to hold the election. The AGM has been postponed thrice -- from September 26 to November 20, then to December 17, and now till Janaury 31, 2015.
Opposing the setting up of a high-powered committee to look into the matter regarding Srinivasan's conflict of interest and punishment to be meted out on the basis of the Mudgal committee report, BCCI counsel C A Sundaram said that it would affect its autonomy and any decision in this regard, if required, must be decided by the governing body of the Board.
Wednesday’s hearing saw, for the first time, Srinivasan's son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, who is indicted by the Justice Mudgal Committee for betting in the IPL, taking the opportunity to explain his stand.
He maintained that he would not like to disclose whether he was a team official of CSK or not, as any disclosure would prejudice him in the trial court where he is facing a betting case.
"I have a right to silence," his counsel Siddharth Luthra said while maintaining that Meiyappan is facing trial and that the issue whether he is a CSK official will arise there.
After brief submissions by his counsel, the bench observed: "You have taken this stand after BCCI and India Cements Ltd, the owners of CSK, have accepted that you are a team official. Still you want to stay non-committal."
Luthra questioned the Mudgal Committee over relying on the FIR lodged by the Mumbai Police and statement of witnesses recorded by the police during probe under section 161 of CrPC indicting Meiyappan for betting.
"Reliance on untested material (by the Mudgal Committee) would prejudice me and my trial would become fruitless," he said.
Meiyappan's refusal to disclose whether he was a team official or not came after the bench made several remarks based on the findings of the Mudgal Committee report.
"We are not forcing you to say whether you are a team official or not. However, the Mudgal Committee in its report said you are team official and you are now suspended.
"If you are not a team official then suspension does not matter. If you are not a team official your suspension is meaningless. You still want to enter the stadium but in what capacity," the bench asked.
It then observed: "Are you not prevented from entering the stadium. Can you buy ticket and get inside the stadium. Your stake is you want to enter the stadium.”
When Rajasthan Royals, another IPL team whose stake holder Raj Kundra has also been accused of betting, was making submissions, the bench observed: "Your position is somewhat similar to India Cements Ltd. There Meiyappan, who is a team official, is in betting and here Raj Kundra, who is an official of Rajasthan Royals, is also in betting.”
Rajasthan Royals’ counsel, Ashok Desai, also questioned the findings of
The Mudgal Committee, saying no notice was issued to the franchise in the matter.
He submitted that Kundra was not a share owner in the franchise and 11 per cent share was owned by his family members.
Kundra's counsel, Shekhar Naphade, also raised objections over his indictment, saying the Mudgal Committee did not follow the BCCI’s rules, nor did it follow the principles of natural justice and arrived at the conclusion without issuing notice to his client.
When the bench questioned Naphade on him raising objections over the Mudgal Committee report, he said: "No matter what is the composition of the committee, the rules are rules and have to be followed.”
The senior advocate was answering the bench's question as to how the Mudgal Committee violated BCCI rules.
He said the committee should have given Kundra all material perused by it before giving its findings.
He said there was not only violation of BCCI rules but he was also not given the right to appeal and approach the high court as a right of judicial review.
Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for India Cements, submitted that Meiyappan's conduct should only be treated as that of an individual's.
Merely because he is with the company like several other employees, the findings of the committee should not lead to scrapping the franchise of Chennai Super Kings, he submitted.
The bench told him that Meiyappan, as a team official, was abusing his position by indulging in betting.
"If he is the team official, what are the consequences and will it not lead to the cancellation of franchise's licence?" the bench observed, adding that "as an official you have to ensure that the game has to be played in true spirit.”
Jethmalani said the entire burden cannot be put on the owner of the team.
Earlier in the day, Srinivasan submitted that he will keep away from all matters in the running of IPL while pleading with it to allow him contest the BCCI’s elections.
Sibal said Srinivasan is giving an undertaking that he will keep himself disassociated with the IPL matters till he is given a clean chit by a proposed high-powered panel.
The apex court also expressed concern over cricket being hit by the betting and spot-fixing scandal.
"Game of cricket will collapse if people's confidence in the sport is not restored and preserved," it said.
Image: The triumphant Chennai Super Kings team celebrates after winning the fourth edition of the IPL in 2011.