NEW DELHI (AFP) – India's powerful cricket chief faces a last-minute legal challenge to his attempted return to the top job following a betting scandal that has rocked the sport, a lawyer said Tuesday.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition on Friday seeking to ban Narayanaswami Srinivasan from running for president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) during crucial elections this weekend.
Srinivasan, considered one of the most influential men in the sport, agreed to step aside as BCCI president in June after his son-in-law was arrested, and later released on bail, over alleged involvement in the betting scandal in the Indian Premier League.
A petition, filed by Aditya Verma on behalf of the Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB), claims Srinivasan has no "moral authority" to vie for a third year as BCCI chief during elections in Chennai on Sunday.
"We moved the Supreme Court seeking an urgent hearing. The court has agreed to hear our plea on Friday," Verma told AFP.
There was no immediate comment from Srinivasan. He has declared his intentions to run for president, saying he cannot be held accountable for the actions of a family member.
Mumbai police on Sunday charged his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan and scores of others with cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy over the betting scandal that has engulfed the country's ritzy Twenty20 competition.
Meiyappan, former owner of the Indian Premier League (IPL) team Chennai Super Kings, allegedly handed critical team information to a Bollywood actor, who is accused of passing it on to bookmakers during this year's IPL competition.
Gambling is mostly illegal in India, but betting on cricket matches thrives through networks of underground bookies.
The charges come after three cricketers from the Rajasthan Royals, another IPL team, were also charged in July as part of a police investigation into spot-fixing, in a separate scandal that sparked outrage among fans in the cricket-mad nation.
Srinivasan has also been hit by other legal challenges, including a High Court ruling against a BCCI probe into the betting scandal that cleared him and others of any wrongdoing.
The Bombay High Court ruled that the BCCI-ordered investigation into the scandal that cleared senior cricket officials and IPL owners of any involvement was illegal and unconstitutional.
"We have urged the court that until all pending legal matters are decided, Srinivasan must not be allowed to take part in any affair concerning the cricket board," Verma said.
International news organisations, including Agence France-Presse (AFP), suspended their on-field coverage of matches hosted by the BCCI last year after the board imposed restrictions on picture agencies.