March 2019
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spot-fixing: SC sets aside BCCI''s life ban on Sreesanth, cricketer hopes to return to cricket field
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday quashed the life ban imposed by the BCCI on cricketer S Sreesanth for his alleged involvement in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal and asked the apex cricket body to re-consider within three months the quantum of punishment. However, the top court upheld the decision of the BCCI''s disciplinary committee which said that charges of betting and corruption under the anti-corruption code of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) were proved against the 36-year-old cricketer.

Delivering its 74-page verdict, a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and K M Joseph said the committee may re-consider within three months the quantum of punishment or sanction which may be imposed on Sreesanth as per relevant article of the anti-corruption code. It said Sreesanth may be given one opportunity to have his say on the question of quantum of punishment. While giving some relief to the cricketer, the bench made it clear that its judgement shall have no effect on the criminal appeal pending against him in the Delhi High Court, where the Delhi Police has challenged a trial court''s order discharging all the accused, including Sreesanth, in the IPL spot-fixing case.

The apex court delivered its verdict on Sreesanth''s plea challenging the decision of a division bench of the Kerala High Court which had restored the life ban imposed on him by the BCCI. A relieved Sreesanth hoped he will be allowed by the BCCI to get back to the cricket field. "I hope the BCCI respects the verdict of the country''s highest court and allows me to at least get back to the cricket field," he told PTI. BCCI acting president CK Khanna said the Vinod Rai-headed Committee of Administrators(COA) running Indian cricket will take a call on the court order.

"This is a Supreme Court order and obviously a call needs to be taken. I am confident that the issue will come up for serious deliberation at the next COA meeting. As far as Sreesanth being brought back to mainstream cricket, I have no comment to make," Khanna said. Former BCCI vice-president and Kerala Cricket Association senior official TC Matthew, someone who has seen Sreesanth as a youngster, "welcomed the verdict". "I am very happy for Sreesanth. He has lost six most precious years of his life. I don''t think even if the ban is lifted he can play first-class cricket. "But obviously if the BCCI lifts his ban after the SC verdict, he can have an alternate career in cricket, whatever that is.

He can be a coach, mentor, may be take up professional umpiring, play club cricket in England," Matthew said. Partly allowing Sreesanth''s appeal, the apex court said, "the order dated September 13, 2013 of the disciplinary committee only to the extent of imposing sanction of life time ban is set aside." "Appellant (Sreesanth) shall await the decision of the disciplinary committee and future course of action shall be in accordance with the decision of the disciplinary committee so taken," it added. While setting aside the life ban, the top court said that disciplinary committee''s order does not advert to aggravating and mitigating factors as enumerated in anti-corruption code.

It said that in cases where offences under Article of the code, which relates to corruption, "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 bench said. It further said, "Without considering the relevant provisions of Anti-Corruption Code, the disciplinary committee has imposed a life time ban on the appellant (Sreesanth) which sanction cannot be held to be in accordance with the Anti-Corruption Code itself.

" The court also held that principles of natural justice were not violated in the disciplinary proceedings against Sreesanth under the anti-corruption code of BCCI. It said conclusions drawn by the disciplinary committee on the basis of materials before it cannot be said to be suffering from any infirmity which may warrant judicial review by the constitutional courts. "The constitutional courts in exercise of jurisdiction of judicial review will interfere only when conclusions of the disciplinary committee are perverse or based on no evidence," it said, adding, "It is not open for the high court or this court to substitute its own opinion based on the materials on record on the proof of charges.

" It said that disciplinary committee had jurisdiction to form its own opinion after considering the evidence on record, including the recorded telephone conversations between Sreesanth and Jiju Janardhan, an alleged bookie, and other evidence on the record. It said that standard of proof in a disciplinary inquiry and in a trial of a criminal case are entirely different. "In a criminal case it is essential to prove a charge beyond all reasonable doubt wherein in disciplinary inquiry under Anti-Corruption Code of BCCI the preponderance of probability is to serve the purpose," it said.

A single-judge bench of the Kerala High Court had earlier lifted the life ban imposed on cricketer by the BCCI and had set aside all proceedings against him initiated by the board. Later, the division bench of the high court had restored the ban on a petition filed by the BCCI against the single-judge bench''s order.

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