News 14th July 2015

Two Indian Premier League franchise owners suspended for two years

A committee set up by the Supreme Court of India in January to determine the ‘quantum of punishment’ to be imposed on two cricket administrators and their respective franchises in the Indian Premier League (IPL) has today announced its verdict. The ‘Lodha Committee’, chaired by the former Chief Justice of India, Rajendra Mal Lodha, determined that both Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra would be deemed ineligible to participate in cricket for a maximum of five years. Both were also suspended for life from any cricket activities and suspended for life from being involved with the Board Of Control For Cricket In India (BCCI) in any type of cricket match.

The Lodha Committee further imposed sanctions on India Cements, the owners of the IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings (CSK), and Jaipur IPL Ltd., the owners of the Rajasthan Royals (RR) franchise, suspending both franchise owners for a period of two years. The teams themselves were not suspended, but the franchise owners. During a press conference, Lodha told the public that it was not for the Committee to say whether the CSK team could continue playing if India Cements was to sell its share in the team. Therefore if either CSK and/or Rajsthan Royals were to be bought out by others, they may still be able to play. There is yet to be clarification on this point.

Lodha also stated that those players contracted to either the CSK or RR franchise would no longer be attached to a particular team of the franchise that was suspended. They will lose their contracts with that franchise but are now free to look elsewhere. Before the Lodha Committee’s announcement, media oteculated that an outright ban on two franchises would be unlikely due to the financial consequences for players losing their contracts. However, in his statement, Lodha said that the Committee felt that cricket was bigger than the individuals, ‘We thought that if cricket is bigger than individuals, or groups of individuals, then financial loss to players and franchises is not of significance to consider the financial situation of players who belong to these franchises.’

On 9th February 2014, a committee set up by the Supreme Court of India to probe into the allegations of betting and spot-fixing during the 2013 IPL tournament, and which was chaired by Mukul Mudgal, the retired Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court, delivered its verdict against Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra. The ‘Mudgal Committee’ report was commissioned in July 2013 after the Board Of Control For Cricket In India (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.

The Mudgal Committee found that Gurunath Meiyappan, a ‘team official’ with CSK, and Raj Kundra, a ‘team official’ of the Rajasthan Royals who held an 11.7% stake in the franchise, were guilty of illegal betting on IPL games. Meiyappan is also the son-in-law of current Chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and former President of the BCCI Narayanaswami Srinivasan. Srinivasan, who is also the managing director of India Cements – which owns the CSK franchise – was found by the Mudgal Committee to have not been involved in match fixing activities nor in preventing investigations into match fixing. The Supreme Court of India stated that they could not ‘with any amount of certainty, say that the charge of attempted cover up leveled against Mr Srinivasan stands proved.’

However on 22nd January this year the Supreme Court did strike down the controversial amendment to the BCCI constitution’s clause 6.2.4 that had allowed board officials to have a commercial interest in the IPL. The rule was amended in September 2008, six months after the Chennai franchise was sold to the-then BCCI secretary Srinivasan’s India Cements, allowing Srinivasan to retain a commercial interest in the IPL through India Cement’s ownership of CSK. The amendment was declared by the court in January to be “void and ineffective” and “unsustainable and impermissible in law” as it created a conflict-of-interest.

At the same time the Supreme Court ordered that the quantum of punishment to be imposed on Meiyappan and Kundra and their respective ‘franchisees/teams/owners of the teams’, should be determined by the Lodha Committee. India Cements was implicated because it was held Meiyappan’s had in his ‘acts of betting the implicit approval of the franchisee owner India Cements, actions which violated both the IPL Operational IPL Anti-Corruption Code and Articles. Jaipur IPL Ltd. was implicated as it was partly owned and promoted by Kundra.

The Supreme Court determined that the order passed by the Lodha Committee should be ‘final and binding upon BCCI and the parties concerned subject to the right of the aggrieved party seeking redress in appropriate judicial proceedings in accordance with law.’

The Lodha Committee was also tasked with examining the role of the IPL Chief Operating Officer, Sundar Raman, in the IPL 2013 scandal and, if found guilty, to impose a suitable punishment upon him on behalf of BCCI, as well as to examine and make suitable recommendations to the BCCI for such reforms in its practices and procedures as may be considered necessary. The Lodha Committee is yet to deliberate on these two issues.

A live blog of the press conference for the Lodha Committee verdict, held on Tuesday 14th July, can be found here: http://www.espncricinfo.com/india/content/story/898441.html

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