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One down, more to follow

July 15th, 2015 | by admin
One down, more to follow
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The Supreme Court’s judgment, delivered on January 22 this year, in cases emanating out of the insidious dealings of the Indian Premier League, was rightly lauded at the time. The court had rendered a momentous verdict, with far-reaching implications, in finding that the activities of the BCCI were amenable to the rigours of judicial review.

What’s more, the court had also confirmed the findings of a panel headed by Mukul Mudgal, a former chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, of wrongdoing by Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra, individuals inextricably linked with the IPL. But there remained a feeling that complete justice had yet to be achieved.

This was so because the court had deferred to an independent committee the job of determining punishments to not only Meiyappan and Kundra, but also to India Cements Ltd (ICL) and Jaipur IPL Cricket Limited (JICL), the respective owners of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals.

On Tuesday, this court-appointed committee, headed by RM Lodha, a former chief justice of India, rendered its verdict. Its findings have joyously squashed any remaining feeling of apprehension that the BCCI’s unaccountability would continue to go unpunished. The committee not only awarded lifetime bans to Meiyappan and Kundra from all involvement with IPL cricket, but it also suspended ICL and JICL from participation in the IPL for a period of two years.

At the outset, the Committee clarified its specific mandate, ousting any hope that the transgressors might have had in re-arguing the question of their guilt. In its order, the committee made repeated references to a number of paragraphs from the Supreme Court’s judgment, most notably paragraph 110. Here, the court had observed that it was only the quantum of punishment to be imposed on Meiyappan and Kundra, and their “respective franchisees/teams/owners of the teams,” which alone required determination by the committee.

This finding by the court, in the committee’s opinion, altogether barred Meiyappan and Kundra from raising any fresh doubts with respect to their involvement in activities of betting. Equally, it also forbade ICL and JICL from questioning the establishment of their own respective contraventions.

“If the culpability of the two Franchisees,” wrote the committee, “were not found established by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, it would not have mandated the Committee to determine the quantum of punishment to be imposed on them.” Therefore, its job, the committee held, was restricted to awarding punishments to Meiyappan, Kundra, ICL and JICL for their individual and separate acts of wrongdoing.

Previously, the Mudgal panel had found – as was also later affirmed by the Supreme Court – that Meiyappan and Kundra, through their acts of betting, had violated the IPL’s Operational Rules, the IPL’s Anti-Corruption Code for Participants and the IPL’s Code of Conduct for Players and Team Officials.

At the time of arguing the quantum of punishment to be awarded, Meiyappan’s counsel, in seeking leniency from the Lodha Committee for his client, contended that action could now be taken only under the Anti-Corruption Code. As it happened, under this code, a person could be banned from involvement in the game, at most, for a period of five years. These arguments were, however, dismissed by the Committee.

“The Supreme Court’s analysis of the Operational Rules, Code of Conduct and Anti Corruption Code and the remarks while analyzing these Rules and Codes,” wrote the Committee, “leave no manner of doubt that disciplinary action against Mr. Gurunath Meiyappan is not confined to the Anti Corruption Code alone.” What’s more, the three documents, the committee found, were not mutually exclusive. While the act of betting is a specific offence under the Anti Corruption Code, when, through such act, a player or official brings the game into disrepute, he equally violates the terms of the Operational Rules as well as the Code of Conduct.

In Meiyappan’s case, the committee found, there were a number of factors that aggravated the nature of his offences. These included the fact that he was an integral part of CSK; that he was in regular touch with bookies and punters; that he frequently placed bets in IPL matches, sometimes even while these matches were in progress; that he had been found to be a “team official,” within the meaning given to the term under the Operational Rules; and that he showed no remorse for his actions. These circumstances, in the committee’s belief, necessitated a life-ban, as permitted under both the Code of Conduct and the Operational Rules.

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