Time for full exit, Srinivasan, for bringing shame upon nation

There are people have resigned on less pressing grounds: take former law minister Ashwani Kumar for example...

alam-srinivas

Alam Srinivas | June 8, 2013



Ever since the beginning of the spot- and match-fixing, and rampant illegal betting in the Indian Premier League (IPL), the ‘stepped aside’ president of the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) has given two justifications. First, N Srinivasan has consistently and repeatedly claimed that there were no legal charges against him. Since he is not ‘personally’ involved with any of the illegal activities, though his family members may be, there is no reason for him to quit the board.

Also read previous comment: Why Srinivasan should quit, not just 'step aside'

Second, Srinivasan said in his press statement on May 26 that “Persons who have been suspended by the BCCI, known defaulters, fugitives from the Indian justice system and other vested interests keen to discredit me and the BCCI have indulged in a smear campaign in the last few days.” His needle of suspicion pointed at rivals like AC Muthiah, who has filed cases against him, and Lalit Modi, who is in hiding after being suspended as the chairman of IPL governing council.

Both these stances are, at best, half-truths. The fact is that a supreme court judge, who was part of the two-judge bench, made scathing remarks against Srinivasan in a ‘split’, but written, order in 2011. The former law minister, Ashwani Kumar, resigned because of ‘verbal observations’ made by the apex court against him on his role to influence the CBI in the coal block scam. How can Srinivasan stay as BCCI president after a ‘written’ opinion by a sitting judge?

It is true that Modi has been discredited, BCCI has sent three show-cause notices to him after his suspension, and Modi has fled to the UK to escape the clutches of the law. However, what is forgotten is that the allegations he hurled against Srinivasan are included in semi-legal documents, i.e., his replies to the show-cause notices. Since these must have been cleared by lawyers, there is logic in taking them more seriously than Modi’s verbal rants on TV news channels!

Given this surfeit of legal and semi-legal evidence against the BCCI president, who decided to ‘step aside’ rather than resign, Srinivasan’s defence falls apart. He cannot claim that there are no charges against him, and only vested interests have deemed him guilty. The only defence for him is that he has not been arrested and/or indicted by the courts. But so was the case with Ashwani Kumar. This may, therefore, be an opportune time to pinpoint the ‘legal’ accusations against Srinivasan.

Conflict of interest vis-à-vis CSK
In his petitions, Muthiah said that the purchase of Chennai Super Kings (CSK), one of IPL’s nine teams, was questionable. CSK was bought by India Cements, whose promoter was Srinivasan, for $91 million in early 2008. Srinivasan came into conflict with the interests of the BCCI because of the four posts he held at that time. He was BCCI’s treasurer, vice chairman and MD of India Cements, CSK’s managing committee’s chairman, and ex-officio member of IPL’s governing council.

Later, in September 2008, Srinivasan became the BCCI’s secretary and, therefore, “the ex-officio chief executive of BCCI and also convenor of the meetings of the committees of BCCI including IPL and Champion’s League”. When he became the board president, the conflicts of interest intensified further. They have become quite untenable today because his son-in-law, Gurunath Myeiappan, has been accused of fixing and illegal betting in IPL matches by the Mumbai police.

Justice Gyan Sudha Misra of the supreme court, in his split judgment in 2011 on the Muthiah versus BCCI case, agreed that “conflict of interest does not require actual proof of any actual pecuniary gain or pecuniary loss” as the principle is a “much wider, equitable, legal and moral principle”. He added that its objective is to “prevent” and not “cure situations”, where the fair discharge of responsibilities can be affected by commercial interests. This was the case in India Cements’ purchase of CSK.

Therefore, Justice Misra concluded that as the BCCI official, Srinivasan was “privy to highly sensitive information about the (IPL) bidding process, the design of the tender, the rules of the game, the future plans of BCCI in respect of IPL and so on and so forth… It is inconceivable that such insider information… would not have been used and misused… by (Srinivasan) in the capacity of a bidder through his company India Cements Ltd.” What can be more damning than this!

When Modi was ousted from the BCCI, one of the allegations against him was that he was a ‘proxy’ owner of at least three IPL teams, including Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab. In his reply to the first show-cause notice, he questioned the fairness of the charge that he was a ‘benami’ owner in three teams. Why hasn’t the BCCI asked this to Srinivasan, whose family members and privately held entities publicly hold 26.5% in India Cements, which owned CSK?

In fact, the BCCI gave a clean chit to Srinivasan. In December 2007, Srinivasan asked Sharad Pawar, then the BCCI president, “whether it would be proper and in order if India Cements Ltd participated in the (IPL) tender/bidding process?” Pawar replied on January 5, 2008 that “your (Srinivasan) being a shareholder, vice chairman and managing director of the company will not prevent or preclude India Cements Ltd from participating in the tender.”

Players’ retention rigged to help CSK
Right from the time that he was shunted out of IPL, Modi has blamed Srinivasan for his problems. Modi had to go because he took on Srinivasan. In his reply to the first show-cause notice issued by the BCCI against him, he made this apparent. “It is my case that I have frustrated your (Srinivasan’s) attempts at match/umpire fixing, exposed your attempts at formulating policies which benefit your franchisee (CSK) at the cost of other franchisees and the BCCI,” said Modi.

He added in the same reply that “you have attempted to misuse your office/ post (first) as hon. treasurer and (later) as hon. secretary to further your personal and private interests at the cost and expense of the BCCI, the IPL, other franchisees and the game of cricket…” Modi was convinced that Srinivasan’s “wearing of two hats”, as a cricket administrator and team owner, placed him in a situation of conflict of interest, which Srinivasan “misused and exploited”.

Nothing was possibly more blatant in this respect for Modi than what he believed were Srinivasan’s machinations to influence the IPL’s player retention policy. The contracts signed by the original eight IPL teams with their domestic and foreign players were for three years. Thus, by the time of the third season (2010), the IPL’s governing council had to decide whether all the players would be available for auction after three seasons, or the teams could retain some of their players.

In March 2009, at the IPL governing council meeting, Modi said that all the players should come back to the “common pool” to be auctioned. This was to “ensure that as and when IPL launched new teams (which it did in the 2011 season), the new owners were not disadvantaged vis-à-vis old teams…” The idea was that the new teams – two of them, Kochi and Pune, were selected in early 2010 – could participate in the new auction and buy the players that they wished to.

According to Modi’s version, Srinivasan objected to this retention formula as he felt that “the interest of owners (eight teams) that came in the first round needed to be protected, (which was) a clear case of conflict of interest”. In November 2009, the governing council met in Bangkok, where Srinivasan raised the same issues, Modi claimed in his reply to the first show-cause notice, although “the majority of teams (six out of eight) were clearly in favour of bringing all players into the auction pool.”

Modi held talks with all the teams and told the governing council in December 2009 that most teams wanted all the players to be re-auctioned. “Once again you (Srinivasan) strenuously objected and insisted on a player retention policy of seven players (four Indian and three foreign),” said Modi. In March 2010, the then BCCI president – Srinivasan was the secretary – approved the proposal for each of the eight IPL teams to retain seven players, as per Srinivasan’s formula. Later, the number was reduced to four; only two teams, CSK and Mumbai Indians retained four players each.

Control over BCCI’s finances
Both as its treasurer and secretary, Srinivasan controlled the expenses of the board. In Modi’s scheme of things, as the treasurer, Srinivasan “insisted that the treasurer (and not secretary) was the proper person to sign cheques and do the final approval of the expenses”. But when he was upgraded as the secretary in 2008, Srinivasan “contended that the secretary was the proper person to do final approval of expenses and therefore insisted and ensured that everything be routed through you before going to the treasurer for cheque payments”, said Modi in his reply.

Modi claimed that the finance department of the board at that time was in Srinivasan’s grip. Two of the key officials in the department included Prasanna Kannan and PD Srinivasan. Both “report to you on everything. They have a close, past and continuing, association with you (Srinivasan)”, added Modi. According to him, “PD Srinivasan is the internal auditor of India Cement Ltd… He was appointed as the BCCI internal auditor whilst you were an office bearer. Prasanna Kannan is an employee of India Cements Ltd. He was likewise seconded to IPL whilst you were an office bearer.”

Clearly, there are a lot of issues, whose legal implications have engulfed the BCCI president. If other public servants had to resign for minor demeanour, there may be a case for Srinivasan’s exit. Even if he claims that BCCI is a private trust, and not under public scrutiny, the fact is that cricket is a national game and what has happened with BCCI in the recent past is a matter of national shame.

 

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