Pressure mounts on Srinivasan to resign

Mumbai/New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) The government Wednesday called for the resignation of N. Srinivasan on "moral grounds" but the BCCI chief remained adamant even as as his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan's police custody was extended till Friday.

Despite growing demands for his exit, Board of Control for Cricket in India president Srinivasan, whose son-in-law faces charges of betting in Indian Premier League (IPL) matches, remained defiant.

The sports ministry said it had "observed with considerable disquiet" reports about match and spot fixing since the controversy broke out May 16 with the arrest of three Rajasthan Royal players for spot fixing.

It said in view of conflict of interest, Srinivasan should step aside pending the enquiry ordered by the BCCI against Meiyappan, chief executive of Chennai Super Kings, owned by Srinivasan's India Cements company.

"As there is a conflict of interest, the BCCI president should tender his resignation on moral grounds," a ministry statement said.

A Mumbai court extended till Friday the police custody of Meiyappan after police said they needed to confront him and arrested Bollywood actor Vindoo Dara Singh, another accused, with Chennai hotelier Vikram Agarwal.

The prosecution said they used to communicate on telephone in "coded language" regarding matches, players and bets, and that further remand was necessary to decipher the codes.

IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla and Board of Control for Cricket in India vice president Arun Jaitley betrayed the disquiet in the board when they asked Srinivasan to "step away" till the charges against Meiyappan were probed.

"In our opinion, he should stay away till the probe against his son-in-law is on," Shukla told the media in New Delhi.

"We are concerned about the image of the board. We have requested him to step down till the probe is over, it is up to him to decide. He says he has done no wrong. It is his view."

BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale, retired judge T. Jayaram Chouta of the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu high courts and former judge R. Balasubramanian of the Tamil Nadu High Court will investigate the spot fixing scandal.

The panel will look into the allegations against Meiyappan, Chennai Super Kings owner India Cements Ltd as well as Rajasthan Royals owner Jaipur IPL Pvt Ltd.

On Tuesday, Jyotiraditya Scinda, chairman of BCCI's finance committee, asked for Srinivasan's resignation, a demand earlier made by former board president Inderjit Singh Bindra.

Ravi Savant of the Mumbai Cricket Association also wants Srinivasan to exit.

But despite the mounting calls, Srinivasan remained adamant. He says he has done no wrong.

He insisted that Shukla's comments were a mere reiteration of what he (Srinivasan) himself had stated earlier in Kolkata.

"It is very clear that he has said that I should disassociate with the procedure (of the commission). In Kolkata I said the same - I will have nothing to do with the commission, its appointment and its probe.

"This is what Shukla said. He has reiterated what I said."

Asked about the views of Scindia, Srinivasan said: "I don't respond to individual comments."

Scindia's remarks punctured Srinivasan's claims that the board was united over his continuing as the BCCI president.

Former BCCI president Sharad Pawar concurred with his successor Shashank Manohar and demanded an inquiry by the home ministry into all the 75 matches of the IPL.

Pawar, also a former International Cricket Council (ICC) president, said if he had been in power at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) the scam wouldn't have taken place.

"If the BCCI gives in writing to the Home Minister and requests to investigate all the matches, the government can then investigate all the matches. They can interrogate anybody. They have legal sanction," Pawar said.

"If, however, the board does not accept it and says its own anti-corruption will do the job, I feel the board is not serious in dealing with the wrongdoings," he added.

Meanwhile, the sports ministry rejected the law ministry's first draft of the Dishonest Practice in Sporting Event (Prevention) Bill and has sent it back for revision with as many as 18 recommendations.

Sports ministry officials told IANS that the draft bill was done in a hurry and left out some important points. The re-draft is likely to be ready in another nine weeks.

"The draft bill had 10 points and we had sent it back with as many as 18 recommendations. It was done in a hurry with several glaring loopholes," a top sports ministry official told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

The draft covered all inter-state and international tournaments and in the event left out IPL or football's I-League, which are franchise-based club tournaments.

The IPL spot fixing and betting row, which has led to the arrest of three players, Srinivasan's son-in-law and several bookies across the country, has enveloped the BCCI in one of its worst crisis since the 2000 match fixing case.

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