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Mukul Mudgal's back, stronger than ever

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 - 9:35am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Apex court reappoints Mudgal committee to specifically probe 13 persons including Srinivasan named in sealed envelope * Two-judge bench effectively trashes BCCI-proposed panel * Empowers Mudgal committee by giving it access to assistance from investigative agency * BCCI allowed to hear tapes of officials who deposed before panel

The Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee on Tuesday agreed to conduct further investigations, with the assistance of other investigating agencies, into the alleged wrongdoings by N Srinivasan and 12 others in the IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal after the Supreme Court sought the panel's consent.

Speaking to dna, Justice Mudgal, a retired chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana high court, said "All the members of the panel have given their consent to the apex court's suggestion and the commission's counsel would communicate the same to the bench on April 29." He, however, refused to reveal as to which investigating agency the panel would prefer for the probe, saying "the matter is subjudice and let the court endorse it and pass any order, and we will comply with it".

A bench headed by Justice AK Patnaik asked senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, who appeared for the Mudgal Committee, to seek instructions from Justice Mudgal and inform the court at the next hearing. "You inform us on next Tuesday if the commission (also comprising additional solicitor general L Nageshwar Rao and senior advocate Nilay Dutta) is ready to conduct the probe if the investigative power is given to it and whom do they (panel members) want for assistance (indicating a probe agency)," Justice Patnaik said.

The bench's order came after the petitioner, Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB), strongly opposed the three-member panel set up by the BCCI. The BCCI had, in its emergent working committee on Sunday, decided to propose to the Supreme Court the names of RK Raghavan, former CBI director, Justice JN Patel, former chief justice of the Calcutta high court, and Ravi Shastri, former India captain.

It may be recalled that the Mudgal Committee had, in February, submitted a detailed report to the Supreme Court after conducting a four-month probe. In addition to the report, which ran into hundreds of pages with annexures, the panel also submitted a "sealed envelope" carrying the names of 13 eminent persons, including Srinivasan.

Last month, the court had asked Srinivasan not to discharge his official duties as president of the cricket body till the time the court passes its final verdict on the issue. Meanwhile, the BCCI informed the bench that the cricket body has proposed a three-member panel to further probe the scandal but the court said it will pass the order after hearing all the parties and also Justice Mudgal Committee's reply.

Representing the CAB, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi vehemently opposed the BCCI's proposal, saying the members have conflicting links with either the board or its officials. "Shastri is contracted to BCCI as commentator for the IPL 7 matches. The BCCI's interim president, Shivlal Yadav, and Justice Patel are close relatives. And Raghavan is an affiliated member of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA), whose president is deposed BCCI chief N Srinivasan," Singhvi said and requested the court for an SIT or CBI probe.

The bench also allowed the BCCI lawyer, senior counsel CA Sundaram, to hear some portions of the Justice Mudgal Committee's interactions with Srinivasan, MS Dhoni and IPL chief operating officer Sundar Raman. It asked the probe committee to provide audio recordings to the Supreme Court's secretary general who would, in turn, make arrangements for the counsels of BCCI, and Srinivasan, to hear the tapes in the apex court. The court also asked the board and Srinivasan to maintain complete confidentiality of the contents of the audio tapes and not to leak it to anybody. "Any content of the audio recordings going out means cricket would be blackened in the country," the bench said.

The audio recordings will be heard in the presence of the court's secretary general by advocate Amit Sibal on behalf of Srinivasan and advocate Rohini Musa on behalf of the BCCI.

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