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IPL's snoopgate row? Further trouble for BCCI

Sanjeeb Mukherjea and Ashok Bagriya | April 22, 2014, 6:10 PM IST

In what could be a potentially damaging development for the BCCI, it has now emerged that the Justice Mudgal panel probe into the IPL spot-fixing and betting case was being snooped upon. This shocking revelation, made by senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam appearing for the Mudgal panel in the Supreme Court today, is sure to send shock-waves through the cricket fraternity. Subramaniam told the court that attempts were made by people, possibly involved in the IPL corruption scandal, to procure the audio recordings of the depositions made to the panel. This on a day when the court trashed the board's proposed probe panel, handing back the investigation to the Mudgal panel, will surely have larger ramifications in time to come.

Cricketers, board officials, cops, lawyers and even journalists had deposed before the Mudgal panel and depositions were recorded between November 5, 2013, and January 6, 2014, on audio recording equipment that the BCCI provided to the panel. Subramaniam told the apex court that recordings were stopped after the panel found out that the person entrusted with the responsibility to carry out the recordings was himself trying to pass on the audio files to outsiders.

While the identity of the person recording the depositions couldn't be ascertained, this surely puts a huge question mark on the entire process. The fact that the Mudgal panel was a Supreme Court-appointed committee to investigate makes it a blatant offence on the part of the offender. It is still unclear whether the Mudgal panel made any official complaint about the matter, but it could prove to be one of the big talking points when the court resumes hearing the case on April 29.

Meanwhile, in response to the BCCI's appeal, the court asked the panel to hand over the audio recordings of four depositions made by embattled BCCI chief N Srinivasan, CSK captain MS Dhoni and IPL COO Sundar Raman to the BCCI counsel who will hear it in the presence of the Secretary General of the court. But the BCCI's troubles are far from over with the Supreme Court handing back the responsibility of the probe to the Mudgal committee, who will now have to inform the court about the composition of the new committee, and have also been promised help from investigating agencies.

Speaking to CNN-IBN, Retd Justice Mukul Mudgal said, "We have given our consent, the panel has given consent, it is entirely for the Honorable Supreme Court to decide and I have nothing else to say and I will wait for the SC's order."

The proceedings were marked by fierce arguments from the petitioner's (Cricket Association of Bihar) counsel as to the composition of the BCCI's proposed probe panel. While the board had suggested IPL Governing Council member and former India cricketer Ravi Shastri, former CBI director RK Raghavan and former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court JN Patel as the new panel, the CAB counsel represented by Abhishek Manu Singhvi raised strong objections, with conflict of interest being the main bone of contention.

Earlier on Monday, CNN-IBN had reported about the questions surrounding the new probe panel. RK Raghavan was one of the 52 people who deposed before the Mudgal panel himself, and was also the secretary of the Kamyuth Cricket Club, that runs under the administrative umbrella of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) that is headed by N Srinivasan. While there was widespread speculation about another member on the proposed panel being related to a BCCI member, Justice JN Patel confirmed to CNN-IBN that he indeed was the brother-in-law of the interim board chief Shivlal Yadav, but saw no conflict of interest in taking up the appointment. Patel, who didn't know about being proposed on the panel by the BCCI, also said that if Shivlal Yadav were to be found involved in corruption, then definitely there will be a conflict of interest, and in that case, he would recuse himself.

However, with the court making it clear that the Mudgal panel would be on the job, there is little that the board mandarins can do at this time. Perhaps remembering what Shashank Manohar said a while back could do them a world of good. One of the finest administrators whose honesty and integrity is spoken of about till today in cricketing circles, Manohar had told this correspondent "the board members should remind themselves that money/profits is neither the aim nor the objective of the board. The primary duty is to promote a clean game of cricket. Cricket is the most popular game in India and enjoys a dedicated viewership of millions. This viewership is what generates income and fuels BCCI's clout on an international Level. If the faith of the public is not restored, the BCCI would be failing the public which has catapulted it to being the most influential player on the international scene." Hope someone is listening.

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