NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Thursday said sidelined Indian cricket board chief N. Srinivasan cannot contest any election to the board post as long as he is involved in a “conflict of interest” situation as an owner of IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings (CSK).

Giving six weeks’ time to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to hold its annual elections, the apex court bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla in its judgment said: “No one who has any commercial interest in the BCCI events (including Mr N. Srinivasan) shall be eligible for contesting the elections for any post whatsoever.”

“We make it clear that the disqualification for contesting elections applicable to those who are holding any commercial interest in BCCI events shall hold good and continue till such time the person concerned holds such commercial interest or till the Committee considers and awards suitable punishment to those liable for the same; whichever is later,” said Justice Thakur pronouncing the judgment running into more than 230 pages.

The apex court, however, cleared Srinivasan – the vice president and managing director of India Cements that owns CSK – of the allegation of cover-up after reports on the betting and match fixing that surfaced in the media. The court said this while answering seven questions covering different dimensions of the 2013 IPL betting and spot fixing case. These included the conduct of Srinivasan, his son-in-law and CSK “official” Gurunath Meiyappan, Rajasthan Royals (RR) co-owner Raj Kundra, and IPL CEO Sunder Raman, Srinivasan’s “conflict of interest”, and the status of the BCCI.

The court appointed a three-member committee of former apex court judges, headed by former chief justice R.M. Lodha, to decide the quantum of punishment that has to be awarded to Meiyappan and Kundra for their involvement in betting. The punishment would not only remain confined to them but extend to their franchises too. Other members of the committee are Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice R.V. Raveendran. The court gave the committee six months’ time to complete the task, saying neither itself (the court) nor the BCCI were appropriate to give suitable punishment to the guilty.

Justifying the formation of the committee, the court said: “This would not only remove any apprehension of bias and/or influence one way or the other, but also make the entire process objective and transparent, especially when we propose to constitute a committee comprising outstanding judicial minds of impeccable honesty.”

The court also said both Meiyappan and Kundra were “team officials” of their IPL franchises. The court scrapped the amendment to BCCI’s Rule 6.2.4 that allows its office-bearers to have commercial interests in events like the IPL and Championship League Twenty 20 and declared it “void and ineffective”. The court asked the committee to look into the activities of BCCI official Sunder Raman in the entire matter and, if needed, take the assistance of the investigating team constituted by it earlier to assist the Justice Mukul Mudgal probe panel. The court asked the committee to examine and consider amendments to the BCCI’s Memorandum of Association and the prevalent rules and regulations for its elections and look at changes in the directives for providing a mechanism for resolving “conflict of interest”. The verdict, viewed as a major blow to Srinivasan’s BCCI aspirations, however, failed to evoke any comment from the under-pressure administrator.

When contacted by IANS, Srinivasan refused to comment. He merely said: “I am not talking now.” But the court’s decision was welcomed by former cricketers, administrators and lawyers. “The judgment of the Supreme Court is the reiteration of the proposition that one cannot get away by wearing the corporate mask, and courts can lift the veil of corporation, when the occasion demands,” D. Varadarajan, a Supreme Court lawyer specialising in company, insurance and competition laws, told IANS over phone Thursday.  Former BCCI president Sharad Pawar said the judgment should be a path-breaker in terms of checking the contentious “conflict of interest” issue. “The court has shown the way for the BCCI. I welcome corrective action by SC. I am sure the ‘conflict of interest’ will now be checked,” Pawar was quoted as saying by a news channel. Former Indian captain Bishen Singh Bedi questioned the honesty of the BCCI.

“Landmark ruling by SC fr good of Indn Crkt-BCCI integrity questioned most glaringly and ever so aptly!” tweeted Bedi. Former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi also criticised Srinivasan, saying it was time for a clean-up. “#Srinivasan knew all along that Rule 6.2.4 is unsustainable & illegal. #IPLVerdict now ensures a new @BCCI chief in 6 weeks. Time 4 cleanup.”