Legally explained: What, why and how the Supreme Court decided to fix BCCI

Here’s a look at the apex court’s judgement on the Indian Premier League betting and spot-fixing scandal


A file photo of N. Srinivasan. Photo: SaiSen/Mint
A file photo of N. Srinivasan. Photo: SaiSen/Mint

You might have heard that an Indian Premier League (IPL) betting and spot-fixing scandal was uncovered in 2013 and several players and bookies were arrested, and allegations were made against officials of IPL teams and of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Many suspected a white-wash after a BCCI-appointed committee in 2013 gave clean chits to pretty much everyone.

Some of the more sceptical ones went to the Bombay high court and eventually the matter reached the Supreme Court, which read out large chunks of a 138-page judgement in open court on Thursday for one-and-a-half hours.

Weren’t we facing enough trouble on the Australian pitch for the Supreme Court to bring down even more trouble right now?

No, the Supreme Court is not creating trouble, it’s trying to fix it!

In a nutshell, it has forbidden anyone who has commercial interests in individual IPL teams to also contest BCCI elections, because that could create an obvious conflict of interest.

The court has also appointed a committee that will punish certain team officials who violated IPL rules.

Trust me, it’s for the greater good.

But why should the court even interfere with a private body like the BCCI, which doesn’t even receive government funds?

You’re right, BCCI is a society registered in Tamil Nadu and doesn’t receive government funds.

But, in case you didn’t realize, cricket is bigger than that.

The Supreme Court noted that the BCCI regulates and controls the game of cricket in India to the exclusion of all others. BCCI chooses the national teams and the government has allowed it to do so.

Therefore, BCCI cannot fairly be described as a body that is merely undertaking any old private activity, like your local sports club, but is practically performing functions of the state.

That would make it amenable to writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

Article what? What does “amenable to Writ Jurisdiction under Article 226” mean?

The decisions of the government and public bodies are (and should be) subject to stricter judicial scrutiny than the actions of ordinary citizens.

Therefore, if a court has writ jurisdiction over a body because that body is a public body, it means that you and other ordinary citizens can seek relief before that court against it.

The Supreme Court of India gets this power under Article 32 of the Constitution, while the high courts do so under Article 226.

But wasn’t there some case a few years ago when the Supreme Court said the Indian cricket team is technically the BCCI’s cricket team and the courts couldn’t interfere? Has that changed now and the courts can stick their noses in BCCI business whenever they like?

In the 2005 case, Zee Telefilms Ltd had actually approached the Supreme Court directly. Back then, the Supreme Court eventually decided that the BCCI was not a “state” and therefore couldn’t be challenged under Article 32 in the Supreme Court to enforce “fundamental rights”, which include the most basic human rights.

However, the Supreme Court then also said that BCCI was performing a “public duty” and high courts could have writ jurisdiction under Article 226.

Article 226 challenges are wider than 32 challenges, because they are not just limited to public bodies’ violations of a small number of “fundamental rights”, but can also be made for a public body’s violations of nearly any legal right whatsoever, giving a lot more options.

And that’s exactly what happened in the current case: the Bombay high court was originally approached under Article 226, eventually leading in appeal to the apex court.

Understood. So what did the Supreme Court decide to do with its power then?

During the course of the case, the Supreme Court had appointed a committee—the Mukul Mudgal committee—that looked into the allegations against some players and officials.

After a “scientific evaluation” of voice recordings and other investigations, the committee by November 2014 eventually found that two officials, Gurunath Meiyappan of the Chennai Super Kings and Raj Kundra of the Rajasthan Royals,were involved in betting, which was against the IPL rules.

The Supreme Court has now appointed another committee of three ex-judges of the apex court to decide what the punishment for Meiyappan and Kundra should be.

As the Supreme Court has found Meiyappan and Kundra guilty, will they go to jail?

No. Their justices found them guilty of certain improper acts warranting disciplinary action under the internal BCCI/IPL rules. Separate criminal trials are pending against them and few others before separate courts.

Will the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals play in future IPLs?

Cannot say. The new three-member committee will decide their fate.

But why was BCCI’s in-limbo president N. Srinivasan dragged into this?

Srinivasan is vice-chairman and managing director of the company that owns the Chennai Super Kings.

On top of that, Meiyappan (the one found guilty of betting by Mudgal) is his son-in-law.

Finally, on 27 September 2008, the day that Srinivasan was elected as BCCI secretary and a few months after the Chennai Super Kings debuted in the IPL, the BCCI rules were changed to relax the restriction on BCCI officials from holding shares in cricket teams: under the Regulation 6.2.4, BCCI officials could own shares in IPL and Champions League twenty-20 teams.

Nice for Srinivasan.

The Supreme Court found it hard to ignore the huge conflict of interest arising when those meant to regulate the game are also invested in the performance and profits of one of its teams.

Does this mean Srinivasan cannot become BCCI president again?

Because the Supreme Court held that no one with any commercial interests in BCCI events can contest BCCI elections, Srinivasan will now have to effectively choose between the BCCI presidential post and owning the Chennai Super Kings.

Is that it? Is there nothing in the judgement for cricket fans who just want a clean and pure game in future?

Don’t be disappointed just yet, some more good for the game may come out of it.

The apex court has requested the three-member committee to also make recommendations related to “streamlining the working of BCCI to make it more responsive to the expectations of the public at large and to bring transparency in practices and procedures followed by BCCI”.

Howzat! Let’s hope that cricket can become a gentlemanly game once again!

Mohit Singh is an advocate at the Supreme Court of India.

Mint’s association with LegallyIndia.com will bring you regular insight and analysis of major developments in law and the legal world.

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