Breaking: SC Sets Aside Life Ban Imposed On Cricketer Sreesanth; Asks BCCI To Take Fresh Decision On Punishment [Read Judgment]
Partly allowing the appeal of cricketer S Sreesanth, the Supreme Court today set aside the life ban imposed by the Board of Control of Cricket in India(BCCI) on him for indulging in spot-fixing during 2013 Indian Premier League.
The bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice KM Joseph has directed the disciplinary committee of BCCI to take a decision on the quantum of punishment within 3 months from today.
Significantly, the Court has not disturbed the findings of guilt made by the disciplinary committee against the Kerala based cricketer. It has, in fact, upheld the decision of the disciplinary committee of the BCCI on proof of charges against him. The court held that the principles of natural justice were not violated in the disciplinary proceedings held against him under the Anti-Corruption Code of BCCI . The bench also rejected his contention regarding participation of Srinivasan in the disciplinary committee, observing that cannot be allowed to challenge the constitution of disciplinary committee at this stage of appeal.
The life ban was, however, set aside for the following reasons
- In cases where offences under Article 2.1.1, 2.1.2, 2.1.3 and 2.1.4 are proved, the disciplinary committee is not obliged to award a life time ban in all cases where such offences are proved. When range of ineligibility which is minimum five years, maximum life time ban is provided for, the discretion to which, either minimum or maximum or in between has to be exercised on relevant facts and circumstances
- The disciplinary committee order dated 13.09.2013 does not advert to the aggravating and mitigating factors as enumerated in Articles 6.1.1 and 6.1.2. Without considering the relevant provisions of Anti-Corruption Code, the disciplinary committee has imposed a life time ban on the appellant 73 which sanction cannot be held to be in accordance with the Anti-Corruption Code itself
- Due to subsequent events also, we are of the view that the disciplinary committee of BCCI should revisit the quantum of punishment/sanction to be imposed on the appellant.
In August 2017, a single-judge bench of the Kerala High Court had lifted the life ban imposed on Sreesanth by BCCI and had set aside all proceedings against him initiated by the board. Within two months, a division bench of the high court restored the ban allowing appeal filed by the BCCI against the single-judge bench's order.
The 35 year old fast bowler contended that life ban on him was "completely unfair" and Delhi Police "continuously tortured" him in custody to extract confession of his involvement in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal. Sreesanth, who was arrested and later discharged by a trial court here in July 2015 in a criminal case related to the alleged spot-fixing, claimed he had to confess his involvement in the alleged crime as police tortured him in custody and threatened to implicate his family in the case.
"In the context of facts and manner in which these things have happened, this court should consider that it (life ban on Sreesanth by BCCI) is unfair. He has suffered for the last five-six years. People want him to play cricket. He was extremely loyal to BCCI," senior advocate Salman Khurshid, appearing for Sreesanth, told the bench.
Khurshid said it was not established that any spot-fixing was done in the match played between Indian Premier League teams Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab in Mohali in May 2013 and there was no evidence that the cricketer received any money for this. "The team (Rajasthan Royals) and its owners were banned for two years only. It is completely unfair that this (life ban) has happened with him (Sreesanth)," Khurshid said.
On the issue of his confession before police about his involvement in the alleged crime, the lawyer said, "The confession was due to continuous torture by Delhi Police. According to Sreesanth, police had threatened to implicate his family if he does not confess to the crime."
Khurshid argued the "standard of proof" against Sreesanth was nothing compared to the serious allegations levelled against him and the recorded telephonic conversations were not provided to him during the inquiry proceedings by BCCI's disciplinary committee.
Referring to the recorded telephonic conversations, he said there was no evidence to substantiate the claim that Sreesanth had received money for conceding 14 runs in an over during the IPL match in Mohali.
Khurshid argued that as per allegations, Sreesanth was supposed to concede 14 runs in an over but he gave away 13 runs and the commentary during the match clearly reflected he had not bowled loose deliveries in that over.
He said it was alleged that Sreesanth tucked a towel in his trouser to give an indication to bookies before the start of the over but the fact was he had used towel during matches since 2009. The lawyer argued that Sreesanth used a towel during the match as weather was humid in Mohali and he was using the towel to wipe out sweat from his palm which is usual for bowlers.
Khurshid said nowhere in the world, life ban has been imposed on a cricketer like this.