How ‘binding’ is ‘binding’?

So Rajiv Shukla — after ‘prolonged discussions’ with Arun Jaitley — finally grew a pair. Or so his statements indicate.

Until you parse them, that is. For instance:

Shukla says Board President N Srinivasan “should stay away” from the IPL inquiry. Which means what, precisely? It is a three-member panel, Srini is not on it, so he is not going to be sitting in the room. And that, technically, is staying away.

TV anchors are interpreting it as a call for Srini’s resignation, but if you see the words Shukla uses, it is no such thing.

Shukla did not clarify what he meant by “stay away,” but he did say they did not specifically mean that Srinivasan must stand down from his position. “He is an elected president and he says he has done nothing. That is his view,” Shukla said. “We would want that he stay away during the investigation procedure and have suggested to him that he do so. The image of the BCCI and of Indian cricket has been very badly affected by these events.”

When you read his exact words, it is a mild recommendation that Srinivasan not meddle overtly in the inquiry. And that is a big deal why?

But there is more. Here:

Shukla’s statement, which he repeated almost verbatim a couple of hours later, also said that the decisions of the three-man commission must be directly implemented, and not presented before the general body of the BCCI. It was important the investigation was “independent and that the persons responsible, no matter how they big they may be, are severely punished.”

The inquiry commission had originally meant to comprise two BCCI officials and an independent member, but Shukla said it had been altered to assert its independence by including two judges and a single member from the board, in this case its secretary Sanjay Jagdale.

The commission’s remit was widened to look into India Cements, the owners of Chennai Super Kings, apart from Gurunath Meiyappan, the Super Kings official arrested on charges of betting, and Jaipur IPL Pvt Ltd, the owners of Rajasthan Royals, three of whose players – Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan – were arrested on allegations of spot-fixing.

It all sounds good — the changed composition of the committee, doing away with BCCI treasurer Shirke and BCCI mouthpiece Ravi Shastri and bringing in two retired judges, the expansion of the brief to include not just Gurunath Meyyappan’s role, but also to look at India Cements and other franchises.

But the thing is, Shukla has no authority to say that the report is binding on the BCCI. He is IPL Commissioner and a member of the board’s working committee, that is all. He cannot unilaterally decide what is binding on the board and what is not — such decisions need to be taken by the executive committee, and signed off on by the president.

So, once the report is in, Srini can actually toss it in the trashcan if he likes, and turn around and say, sorry, who is Shukla to say the report is binding, read the BCCI constitution. And Shukla knows this full well, too.

Maybe recent events have made me cynical, but the more I think about it, the more it strikes me as grandstanding; as a case of Shukla and Jaitley, under the pump for their silence, “taking a stand” for the record, knowing that by the time the report comes out, everyone would have found some other story to run after.

I could be wronging those two gentlemen. If I am, I will apologize. But until then…