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Justice Lodha committee comes down hard on IPL; CSK, RR suspended for two years

New Delhi: Star-studded Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals were suspended from the IPL by a Supreme Court-appointed committee on Tuesday in a clean up of cricket hit by the 2013 betting scam involving their top officials Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra.

Meiyappan, a former Team Principal of India Cements Ltd (ICL)-owned franchise CSK and Kundra, co-owner of Jaipur IPL that runs Rajasthan Royals (RR), were suspended for life from any matches conducted by BCCI.

Seen as a clean-up of the mess following the worst scandal that broke out two years ago in the popular cricket league, the punishments were handed down by a three-member panel headed by former CJI R M Lodha which was asked by the Supreme Court to decide the quantum of punishments after finding them guilty of betting.

 Justice Lodha committee comes down hard on IPL; CSK, RR suspended for two years

Justice Lodha. Photo: Naresh Sharma

Citing the Supreme Court's observations in its January 22 order, the committee held that the actions of Meiyappan, considered the face of CSK, and Kundra had brought into "disrepute" the game of cricket, BCCI and IPL and they deserved no leniency.

Shocked by the order, the owners of CSK, whose top players include top India players Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, held discussions with their lawyers and have planned to move the apex court against the panel's decision.

Similarly, Rahul Dravid mentored RR, whose players include stand-in India Captain Ajinkya Rahane and Stuart Binny, were also said to be planning moves to seek relief.

Since it is a Supreme Court appointed committee, entrusted with the task of giving the quantum of punishment, experts feel the teams may not get the relief they expect.

The IPL, which has eight teams now, could go in for inclusion of two more franchises under a new arrangement that
could include players from the two suspended teams.

On its part, the BCCI has called an emergent meeting of its working committee to discuss the future course of action
in the wake of two teams exiting the IPL.

Rejecting the stand of India Cements that it has a long history of contribution to cricket and cricketers, the Lodha committee held this "cannot be accepted in view of the fact that due to the act of Gurunath Meiyappan, Team Official of CSK, who happened to be the son-in-law of Shri N Srinivasan, Managing Director of ICL and the then BCCI President, the purity of the game has been affected and the contribution, if any, made by the franchisee has also been wasted because millions of people who are true lovers of the game feel cheated.

"Moreover, disrepute has been brought to the game of cricket, the BCCI and the IPL to such an extent that now doubts abound in the public consciousness about whether games are clean or not."

Suspending the teams for two years, the committee which also had two former apex court judges, justices Ashok Bhan and R V Raveendran, said the period of suspension will commence from Tuesday.

File photo of tainted ex-RR owner Raj Kundra Courtesy:  BCCI

File photo of tainted ex-RR owner Raj Kundra Courtesy: BCCI

Delivering the order at a press conference, Justice Lodha told questioners that allegations against IPL COO Sundar Raman required further investigation. On ICL's contention that there was no finding of misconduct or wrongdoing committed by the company, the Lodha committee referred to the apex court order that "what possible action is permissible against Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra and their team and franchisees is what logically falls for our consideration".

"The fact that the Committee has been given authority by the honourable Supreme Court to determine the quantum of punishment against the franchisee/teams/owners as well is indicative of the position that there is a finding of wrongdoing recorded against the franchisees,"it said.

"Moreover, Mr Gurunath Meiyappan was in the position of power. He is the son-in-law of N Srinivasan, Managing Director of ICL, which is the franchisee of the team CSK and Mr Gurunath Meiyappan was considered the face of the owner would have to be considered as acts of the owner for the purpose of the Operational Rules, with reference to IPL league matches and consequently, the actions of such person which bring the game, BCCI and league into disrepute," it said.

The Committee was not swayed by pleas on behalf of Meiyappan that he was young, a first time offender, that he had suffered a 10-day jail custody and lost Rs 60 lakh in the betting.

"Although Operational Rules do not provide for mitigating or aggravating circumstances to be considered, but if we consider mitigating factors as suggested by Mr C S Vaidyanathan, then we shall have to consider aggravating factors also.

"Before we undertake this exercise, it must be immediately stated that breach of regulations by an accredited Team Official is a very serious offence. If gradation of offences relating to breaches of section 4 is to be made, the breach of regulations by an accredited Team Official would fall in the most serious category," it said.

The Committee pointed out that not only no urgent action was taken by ICL against Meiyappan, but as a matter of fact no action has been shown to be taken by ICL against him.

"The order of suspension passed by BCCI against Gurunath Meiyappan after his arrest is not an action by ICL against its Team Official. On Kundra the panel observed that as a part owner of RR, he was required to conduct himself in conformity with the
rules, regulations and codes framed by the BCCI."

"Being a UK citizen he had heavy responsibility on him to ensure that his acts and actions were not in conflict with laws of a foreign country. Betting is a crime punishable under the Indian Penal Code. Besides that, it is an offence, corrupt practice under the BCCI rules, regulations and codes," it said.

The committee also said its observations with respect to the much-talked about conflict of interest in the BCCI would be given after completing interactions with various stakeholders of the game.

"Conflict of interest questions have been raised, once we complete the process of interacting with all the stakeholders, we will take a view on that. That exercise is not complete. This order is confined to determining the quantum of punishment to the two individuals and the franchises," he said.

"We have interacted with 40-45 people, we are yet to meet a few others. Once that is done we will decide what guidelines are to be given. Our idea is to get inputs from all stakeholders. It is not confined to cricket administrators and politicians," Justice Lodha added.

He also refused to comment on the criminal cases pending against the suspended officials, saying, "No aspect touching criminal liability has been decided by us."

On whether the two franchisees would be allowed to participate in case there is a change in ownership, Justice Lodha said that aspect is for the BCCI to decide.

File photo from an IPL match featuring Chennai Super Kings. BCCI

File photo from an IPL match featuring Chennai Super Kings. BCCI

"This question was brought to us. But the BCCI has to take a call and whatever legal recourse is there, it is available. You must appreciate that we cannot address every aspect of the matter," he said.

Asked whether the committee took a considered view of the impact this ruling will have on the players attached with the two suspended franchises, Justice Lodha said the game is bigger than the individuals.

"Players will not be attached to a franchisee which has been suspended. We thought that if cricket is bigger than individuals then financial loss to players and franchises is not of significance," he said.

The IPL spot-fixing scandal broke out in 2013 when the Delhi Police arrested Rajasthan Royals cricketers S Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila for allegedly indulging in betting and spot-fixing during the then edition.

This was followed by revelations that Meiyappan was also involved in the scandal along with Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra.

Meiyappan was eventually arrested on May 24, 2013, on charges of cheating, fraud and forgery.

The storm triggered by the shocking developments prompted the IPL Governing Council to appoint a three-member probe panel, including two former High Court judges, to investigate the allegations against Meiyappan and Kundra.

The panel gave a clean chit to the duo despite the police's firm assertion that they were involved in the scandal.

This was followed by the unrecognised Cricket association of Bihar filing a PIL in the Bombay High Court which ruled that the BCCI's probe panel was constituted illegally and there was disparity in the evidence collected by it.

Thereafter, the Supreme Court issued notices to Srinivasan, BCCI, India Cements and Rajasthan Royals when the Board appealed against Bombay High Court's ruling.

In September that year, the BCCI slapped life bans on Sreesanth and Chavan even as the Board's disciplinary committee continued to hold back a decision on Chandila.

In October, the Supreme Court formed a three-member committee to investigate the scandal afresh within four months. The panel comprised former High Court judge Mukul Mudgal, senior advocate and additional solicitor general L Nageshwar Rao and Assam Cricket Association member Nilay Dutta.

The Mudgal panel concluded that there was evidence of wrongdoing against Meiyappan and Kundra. It went on to give the apex court a sealed envelope which had the names of cricketers and administrators involved in the fraud.

However, the committee ruled that Srinivasan was not involved in either spot-fixing or betting but stated that he knew of an IPL player's involvement and chose to turn a blind eye to it.

The Supreme Court then appointed a new three-member panel, headed by Justice Lodha, to decide punishment for Meiyappan and Kundra and their respective franchises declaring that the verdict "shall be final and binding upon the BCCI and the parties concerned.


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Updated Date: Jul 14, 2015 20:25:43 IST