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With Justice Vikramajit Sen, administrator, DDCA appointing his lawyer daughter to assist him in DDCA work, there are allegations of conflict of interest. The Delhi High Court will have to take a call on this

~By Rakesh Bhatnagar

A thin line often divides an act of favouritism from that of official duty, particularly in a person of law and someone who has had an impeccable record. Allegations of “conflict of interest” have hit Justice Vikramajit Sen, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, who was administrator of the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA). This cricket body has been in the middle of swirling allegations of mismanagement due to excessive interference by vested political interests.

Justice Sen was appointed by the Delhi High Court in January 2017, replacing Justice Mukul Mudgal who did not wish to continue in the post. But the DDCA pleaded against the appointment of an arbitrator to…

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With Justice Vikramajit Sen, administrator, DDCA appointing his lawyer daughter to assist him in DDCA work, there are allegations of conflict of interest. The Delhi High Court will have to take a call on this

~By Rakesh Bhatnagar

A thin line often divides an act of favouritism from that of official duty, particularly in a person of law and someone who has had an impeccable record. Allegations of “conflict of interest” have hit Justice Vikramajit Sen, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, who was administrator of the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA). This cricket body has been in the middle of swirling allegations of mismanagement due to excessive interference by vested political interests.

Justice Sen was appointed by the Delhi High Court in January 2017, replacing Justice Mukul Mudgal who did not wish to continue in the post. But the DDCA pleaded against the appointment of an arbitrator to oversee its functioning. The High Court then issued a slew of directions, including amendment of Articles of the Association by incorporating clauses such as capping the age of members and their tenure. It also ordered an audit of accounts from 2012-15 by an external auditor. It said Justice Sen would call a meeting of DDCA members for reconstituting its working and sports committees.

Thereafter, the administrator would meet the Registrar of Companies prior to holding of elections to elect office-bearers of the DDCA. The HC said it would monitor the matter and said the administrator, ie, Sen, could file periodic reports if required. Thus, his actions would be subject to scrutiny by the High Court.

Mrinalini Sen Gupta, daughter of Justice Vikramajit Sen was listed as a panel lawyer for the Delhi government, which had set up an inquiry panel to probe DDCA’s functioning.

However, in May this year, Dinesh Kumar Sharma, a member of the DDCA, filed a plea in the High Court, alleging conflict of interest on the part of Justice Sen. His daughter, Mrinalini Sen Gupta, was among the team of lawyers assisting him in work related to the DDCA. She was also listed as a panel lawyer for the Delhi government, which had set up an inquiry panel to probe DDCA’s functioning. Ironically, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had leveled allegations of financial misappropriation against the DDCA which was headed by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

In his plea to the High Court, Sharma alleged that there was “conflict of interest” and said that Mrinalini had been “animatedly involved in the affairs of the DDCA on a daily basis. So much so that she has been travelling with Justice Sen to BCCI meetings at Mumbai and other places regarding DDCA matters and has been issuing instructions to DDCA employees and reprimanding them as their de facto boss… The conflict of interest is more glaring and brazen because of the fact that the Delhi government has instituted an enquiry against the DDCA for which Justice Sen’s daughter Mrinalini Sen Gupta happens to be a panel advocate”.

Meanwhile, another DDCA member, Siddharth Sahib Singh, in an email to Justice Sen, questioned his decision to send Mrinalini to attend a BCCI function and an IPL meeting. He wrote: “It is empathetic (sic) that no cricketer or member of DDCA represented DDCA in BCCI meetings and ceremonies. It was deemed appropriate to send one tender committee member appointed by you and Ms Mrinalini Sen Gupta to the Annual MAK Pataudi lecture and prize distribution ceremony hosted by BCCI in Bangalore, ignoring the invaluable contributions by the cricketers, selectors and persons who have assisted in managing the state of affairs in DDCA since December 2015.

“It would have been most appropriate to send some of our outstanding performers in domestic cricket this year for the said events.”

Justice Sen has found the “conflict of interest” allegation scurrilous and contemptuous. He said the Delhi High Court would take a call on whether securing his daughter’s assistance in his official work and assigning her functions which were to be undertaken by the administrator alone was a “conflict of interest”.

Justice Sen had confirmed that Mrinalini attended the MAK Pataudi lecture in Bengaluru on March 7 and the IPL organising committee meeting in Mumbai on February 17 “on his behalf” as he was unable to travel at “short notice”.

Justice Sen said in an email reply: “I am the court-appointed administrator. The allegation that I have put my daughter in charge is scurrilous and may even amount to contempt of court. In order to fulfil my role as the court-appointed administrator, which is a formidable and time-consuming task, I have taken the assistance of four lawyers who are associated with me (including Mrinalini Sen Gupta). All decisions regarding DDCA are mine and all my associates are assisting me with the execution of decisions that I have taken. These allegations are being levelled by vested interests.

“I understand that an application has been filed in the hon’ble court alleging that there is a conflict of interest since my daughter is a panel lawyer for GNCTD (Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi). I leave it to the hon’ble high court to decide this aspect and accordingly it is inappropriate for me to respond on this aspect.”

He said that the only other meeting that she attended on his behalf along with Salil Seth from the IPL organising committee was a meeting on February 17 at Mumbai, which was again confirmed a day prior to their travel since he was unavailable.

He said Singh was sent for the National Cricket Academy meeting from March 9-10. Mrinalini refused to comment on her appointment.

Justice Sen has found the “conflict of interest” allegation scurrilous and contemptuous. He said the Delhi High Court would take a call on whether securing his daughter’s assistance in his official work and assigning her functions which were to be undertaken by the administrator alone was a “conflict of interest”.

Whether this stands on a strong legal footing waits to be seen. But such situations can undermine the impartiality and integrity of a person and would be best avoided.

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