The Supreme Court has entrusted the Justice Mukul Mudgal committee to further investigate the Indian Premier League spot-fixing and betting scandal. The court has asked Justice Mudgal to list the investigating agencies he needs help from. The ambit of the probe will be limited to the 13 names that figure in the sealed envelope that the Mudgal committee submitted to the Supreme Court in February. One of the names is that of suspended BCCI president, N. Srinivasan.
Earlier on Tuesday, the top court rejected the Indian cricket Board’s proposal that a three-member panel comprising former Test all-rounder Ravi Shastri, ex-Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court Jai Narain Patel and former CBI boss RK Raghavan investigate allegations of spot-fixing and betting allegations in IPL last year.
After rejecting the BCCI panel – there were questions of conflict of interest against all three members — the two-judge bench of Justice AK Patnaik and Ibrahim Kalifullah had asked Justice Mudgal if he would like to conduct an independent probe with the help of investigators. Mudgal gave his consent. An interim order is expected on April 29, when the case is heard again.
In October last year, the Supreme Court had constituted a three-man panel under Justice Mudgal, a retired Punjab and Haryana High Court judge, to investigate the scandal. Additional Solicitor General L Nageswara Rao and senior advocate Nilay Dutta were other members on the committee. On February 10, the Mudgal committee submitted a report to the court after a four-month probe.
On the direction of the Supreme Court last week, the Board of Control for Cricket in India had proposed the names of Shastri, Justice Patel and Raghavan after an acrimonious three-hour meeting in Mumbai on Sunday. The court, wanting to maintain BCCI’s “autonomy” wanted the Board to suggest a committee to conduct an independent inquiry into the IPL scandal. But the entire panel faced questions of conflict of interest.
Two former BCCI presidents openly slammed the panel that was proposed by the Board’s lawyers on Tuesday. Former BCCI chief Shashank Manohar opposed Shastri’s inclusion, saying he was a paid employee of the Board and was on more than one IPL committees. Shastri, who is commentating in the ongoing IPL in UAE, is known to be close to Srinivasan. Manohar, who represented Vidarbha Cricket Association, said the former Test all-rounder’s choice was thus a clear case of conflict of interest.
Board insiders say Manohar proposed the name of former CPM MP and noted lawyer Somnath Chatterjee. It was shot down. Manohar and BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel had a slanging match over Shastri but Patel prevailed because most Manohar was badly outnumbered. Manohar objected to Raghavan’s name as well but the former CBI boss prevailed on votes. Raghavan, who headed the CBI during the match-fixing inquiry in 2000, was one of the 52 people who deposed before the Justice Mukul Mudgal committee.
On Monday evening, former BCCI president Sharad Pawar echoed Manohar’s sentiments and went a step further. Pawar objected to Justice Patel’s selection saying he was the brother-in-law of Board vice-president Shivlal Yadav. It was yet another case of conflict of interest, said Pawar.
There was immense pressure on the Supreme Court bench from the petitioner’s counsel to order a CBI or NIA probe into the IPL scam. Last week, the Supreme Court indicated that it wanted to protect the BCCI’s “autonomy” by ordering an independent probe. But at the same time the judges added: “If compelled, they may even hand it over to the CBI.”