New Delhi | Star-studded Chennai Super Kings, two-time champions in the IPL, and Rajasthan Royals were today suspended from the cash-rich cricket league for two years for the betting activities of their key officials Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra during the 2013 season.
Meiyappan, the former Team Principal of CSK, and Kundra, co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals, were suspended for life for indulging in betting and bringing the IPL and the game into disrepute.
The punishment was handed down by a Supreme Court- appointed three-member committee, headed by former Chief Justice of India R M Lodha,
putting a spanner on the high- profile T20 league, which began in 2008.
He (Meiyappan) is declared ineligible for participation in the sport of cricket as explained in the anti-corruption code for a maximum period of five years under article 2.2.1. Two: He is suspended for life from activities as explained in article 7.5 under level 4. And three: he is suspended for life from being involved in any type of cricket matches under section 6, rule 4.2. The above sanctions commence from the date of this order,
Justice Lodha said while giving out the verdict in a packed press conference.
The former CJI then read out exactly the same punishment for Kundra, husband of Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty.
The Committee was constituted by the Supreme Court in January this year with its terms of reference being to announce the quantum of punishment against Meiyappan, Kundra and the two franchisees — India Cements Ltd, owner of CSK and Jaipur IPL, owner of Rajasthan Royals.
India Cements argued that they have done a lot to grow the game of cricket. But it cannot be a mitigating factor because they as franchise owners did not punish Gurunath, who was clearly identified as a team official, after he was found guilty of betting. It was only the BCCI who suspended Gurunath from participating in cricket, Justice Lodha said.
Jaipur IPL claims it is highly celebrated as a nursery of players. But three of its players have been accused of alleged spot-fixing. This shows that all is not well in their handling of affairs. The position of Raj Kundra with the Rajasthan Royals franchise – part owner and team official – means his actions brought the game, BCCI and IPL into disrepute, he added.
Making scathing remarks against the accused, Justice Lodha said the credibility of the game has been hurt quite grievously.
Disrepute has been brought to cricket, the BCCI and the IPL to such an extent that there are doubts abound in the public whether the game is clean or not, Justice Lodha said.
Giving the committee’s observations on Meiyappan, Justice Lodha said it has proved beyond doubt that the CSK official was heavily involved in placing bets on his own team. His (Gurunath) habit of regularly placing bets in IPL matches renders the argument of his being first offender and unblemished antecedents in previous IPL tournaments of no worth. That he lost up to Rs 60 lakhs in bets shows that he engaged himself in heavy bets. It is his bad luck that he did not make money out of these bets, he said.
Any agony suffered by him because of media coverage or any hardship that may have been caused to him is too small in comparison to the huge injury he caused to the reputation and image of the game, the IPL and the BCCI. If the reputation and image of the sport are lost, what remains? Being 40 years of age, he is not young but middle-aged. It is difficult to accept that he has passion for the game, he added.
After making similar observations on Kundra, the committee, which also comprised retired Supreme Court judges, Ashok Bhan and R Raveendran, took questions from the waiting media and was asked whether any action against IPL COO Sundar Raman, who was also accused of wrongdoing, is being contemplated.
Justice Lodha said it will be some time before his fate is decided.
About Sundar Raman, we examined the material about him and we believe it requires further investigation. Vivek Priyadarshi has been appointed by the Supreme Court to look into it and he is examining the matter, we are awaiting his report.
After that we will decide what will be the action, he 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.
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 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.