Supreme Court lawyer: BCCI top officials should disclose shareholding interests
Chennai, Jan 22 (IANS) The Supreme Court in its judgment in the BCCI betting and spot-fixing case on Thursday has rightly disregarded the corporate veil worn by the India Cements Limited while barring its managing director N. Srinivasan from contesting the election to the Indian cricket board's governing body presidency, said an apex court advocate.
He also said the top officials of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) now have to disclose their shareholding interests to the cricketing body. They should abstain from any decision-making process of the BCCI which may have a bearing on Indian Premier League (IPL) teams.
"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 (SC) lawyer specialising in company, insurance and competition laws told IANS over the phone from New Delhi.
The SC barred sidelined BCCI president Srinivasan from contesting the election to the Indian cricket board's governing body presidency as long as he is involved in a "conflict of interest" situation as an owner of IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
On the rationale for lifting the corporate veil by the apex court when CSK is actually owned by India Cements of which Srinivasan is only a promoter, Varadarajan said: "It is a typical and classic case for lifting the veil of corporation, if one were to take proper note of the rich corpus of corporate jurisprudence."
He added that Srinivasan's forced exile as the BCCI president cannot be construed as his voluntary exit from the BCCI.
According to Varadarajan, the much-awaited ruling of the SC on the IPL scam set at rest many a speculation as regards to the legality or otherwise of the dual or multiple roles of Srinivasan.
"The verdict has to be considered and understood against the backdrop of the enormous public interest associated with the game of cricket and the murky affairs of the BCCI, which have been washed in public for quite sometime now," Varadarajan said.
Srinivasan has had a great reprieve and relief in the observation of the apex court to the effect that 'suspicion' is no proof to hold him guilty. "The Supreme Court is fully justified in asking Srinivasan to choose between BCCI chief's post and CSK," he said.
Queried as to whether there would be conflict of interest if top officials of BCCI held shares in companies that own IPL teams, Varadarajan answered in the affirmative.
However, there is a caveat, he said: "The concept of conflict of interest depends on the extent of the shareholding in such companies, and not in every case of immaterial shareholding.
"The edifying conduct on the part of such BCCI officials demands disclosure of their shareholding interest to the BCCI, and abstain from any decision-making process of BCCI having a bearing on IPL teams."