In a major setback for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the Bombay High Court on Tuesday called the two-member probe panel formed by the BCCI to investigate the IPL spot-fixing scandal as "illegal and unconstitutional" and asked the board to form a new panel.
The ruling of the court came a day after the Indian Cements, Chennai Super Kings Team Principal Gurunath Meiyappan, Rajasthan Royals and its co-owner Raj Kundra were given a clean chit by the panel following allegations of spot-fixing and betting in IPL sixth session.
The BCCI formed the panel, comprising of former High Court Judges T Jayaram Chouta and R Balasubramanian, to probe into the spot fixing and betting scandal that rocked the IPL in May.
The panel on Monday paved the way for N Srinivasan and Raj Kundra to reclaim their respective positions as Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chief and Rajasthan Royals co-owner by giving a clean chit, but the court's ruling will not make it easy now.
"There is no evidence of any wrongdoing found by the judges against Raj Kundra, India Cements and Rajasthan Royals. The report will now be forwarded to the IPL Governing Council which will take a final decision when it meets on August 2 in New Delhi," BCCI vice-President Niranjan Shah told reporters on Monday.
The findings of the probe panel are supposed to be forwarded to the IPL Governing Council and the matter be discussed at a meeting on 2 August where a final decision would be arrived.
However, the findings of the panel received sharp criticism from several quarters, especially the police who are spearing heading the probe into the scandal.
"We have not finished with our probe yet and are looking for custody of Pakistani umpire Asad Rauf," Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Himanshu Roy told The Hindi.
"There is no question of giving a clean chit to him (Gurunath Meiyappan). We have not finished with our investigation yet and are looking for the custody of Pakistani umpire Asad Rauf to probe him for his role in the scandal. We will soon be filing a charge sheet."
Cricketer-turned-politician Kirti Azad slammed the hasty decision taken by the BCCI, saying that the cricket board is not above the law.
"I don't blame (BCCI acting chief) Jagmohan Dalmiya or Srinivasan for this. The politicians are hell bent on making BCCI the next Indian Olympic Association. We have seen what happened to IOA due to political interference and now the same is happening with BCCI," Azad told Press Trust of India.
"While the Mumbai police and the Delhi police are investigating the case, the BCCI panel has given them a clean chit. Is BCCI above the law and constitution of the country?" he asked.
Azad felt there should be transperancy in the functioning of the BCCI and the board be brought under the ambit of the Right To Information Act (RTI).
"There is no other alternative. The government has to intervene and bring BCCI under the RTI. When former Sports Minister Ajay Maken brought the Sports Bill, the cabinet ministers, involved with BCCI, opposed that. If BCCI claims that they do auditing of their account, then why do they hesitate to come under RTI?" Azad told PTI.
"Whenever something happens, players get penalised and officials walk free. It's a pity because despite all the controversies cricket is still the most popular game in the country due to the hard work and excellent performance of players," he added.
The IPL spot-fixing scandal surfaced after the Delhi Police arrested Rajasthan Royals players - S Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila - in Mumbai on 16 May over charges of under-performing in the IPL matches. The players were booked under section 240 (cheating) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of Indian Penal Code (IPC). They were also suspended by the BCCI and their club.
The episode led to the arrest of CSK Team Principal Gurunath Meiyappan and several other bookies in connection with the betting scandal. Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra was also questioned by the police over gambling activities before the BCCI suspended him from the club till the pendency of inquiry.
Srinivasan, the owner of CSK, was also forced to step aside as the BCCI chief pending inquiry and Jagmohan Dalmiya was made the BCCI interim chief.