News 28 July 2015

BCCI upholds life ban on Indian cricketers despite court acquittal

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will uphold the life ban on Indian cricketers S. Sreesanth and Ankeet Chavan, despite spot-fixing charges being dropped by a New Delhi court on Saturday. ‘Any disciplinary proceeding or decision taken by the BCCI is independent to any criminal ​proceeding and has no bearing,’ read a statement on the BCCI’s website. ‘The decisions of the BCCI, based on its independent disciplinary action, shall remain unaltered.’

On 29 June, the court deferred the framing of charges against 42 people in connection with the allegations made in the Justice Mudgal Committee report until 25 July. The report was commissioned in July 2013 after the BCCI charged three players with match-fixing in May 2013 – S. Sreesanth, Ajit Chandilia and Ankeet Chavan along with a former player turned bookie, Amit Singh.

In September 2013 the BCCI banned Sreesanth and Chavan for life and in its report, the Mudgal Committee found the BCCI’s sanctioning of these players at the time to be ‘adequate and satisfactory’. A charge sheet against 42 accused persons was filed by Delhi police in July 2013, but the court on Saturday discharged 36 of those accused, including the aforementioned cricketers, all of whom played for the Rajasthan Royals franchise in the Indian Premier League.

The original charges were brought under sections 419 (Punishment for cheating by personation), 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) and 120B (Punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 3 (Punishment for organised crime) and 4 (Punishment for possessing unaccountable wealth on behalf of member of organised crime syndicate) of the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA). There is no law regarding match-fixing in the Indian Penal Code and the MCOCA, a local state law under which the charges were brought, was enacted to combat organised crime and terrorism.

The three cricketers, Sreesanth, Chavan and Chandila, were discharged by the court due to insufficient evidence needed to prove the spot-fixing charges. Suhrith Parthasarathy, a lawyer at the Madras High Court, told ESPNcricinfo that “In criminal law, the kind of evidence the prosecution needs to bring to court is a kind of evidence that shows beyond reasonable doubt that these individuals had committed the offences under the MCOCA. Obviously the Delhi Police was unable to do it in this case and, therefore, the court has cleared them of all these charges. This does not mean that the other civil consequences that Sreesanth and the other cricketers would face follow. Those would continue to apply.”

In acquitting Sreesanth, a fast-medium bowler with 27 Test caps for India, the court’s order said that in the absence of not even a single criminal case registered prior to the present case, nor with any indication of a ‘nexus with the crime syndicate, it cannot be said that he [Sreesanth] was indulging in continuing unlawful activity’ and therefore he was duly ‘entitled to be discharged’.

Despite the collapse of the criminal case, the BCCI remains resolute that it will not change its decision to impose life bans on the Sreesanth and Chacan. A BCCI anti-corruption official told ESPNcricinfo that there was “sufficient evidence available to prove the offence of match-fixing or spot-fixing” to satisfy the BCCI’s 2013 investigation but not to meet the standards for a criminal conviction.

The BCCI’s stance has reportedly been challenged by the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA), which have allegedly urged the cricket governing body to lift its ban on S. Sreesanth. KCA President and BCCI Vice President TC Mathew told the Indo-Asian News Service that he had written to both the Secretary and the President of the BCCI requesting that “In the light of the court itself exonerating Sreesanth from the case, the ban imposed on him be lifted”. Mathew said that he is awaiting a response.

Kerala is a domestic cricket team based in the Indian state of Kerala which plays in the Ranji Trophy, the premier first class cricket tournament in India. According to the sports news outlet First Post Sports, the KCA is hoping that Sreesanth will be able to play for Kerala in the upcoming Ranji Trophy season.

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