The Kerala High Court on Monday lifted the life ban imposed on cricketer S. Sreesanth by the BCCI in the wake of the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal. In his verdict, Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque, said there was no incriminating evidence to pinpoint Sreesanth’s involvement in the spot-fixing scandal. The court pointed out that the committee had come to the conclusion based solely on circumstantial evidence. The committee found nothing that suggests the cricketer had agreed to spot-fixing. The only probability in such circumstances that could be pointed out against the cricketer was his knowledge on the subject of betting. The evidence pointed out that betting syndicates and other mafia had encircled the gentleman’s game. The court passed the verdict while allowing a writ filed by Sreesanth challenging the BCCI disciplinary committee’s decision. Back in 2015, a Delhi court had acquitted Sreesanth of all charges, but the BCCI had slapped a life term on him.
The judge pointed out that if a player has knowledge about betting, as per BCCI’s anti-corruption code, he has to report the matter to the authorities. Assuming that Sreesanth had knowledge of such activities, the court was of the view that four-year ban from all forms of cricket already undergone was sufficient to meet the ends of justice. “Assuming that Sreesanth had knowledge of betting, this court is of the view that the punishment meted out to him (a four-year ban) from the game is sufficient enough,” the judge observed. The court said said it was equally important to notice that the 34-year-old had never attempted to dissociate himself from his friend Jiju Janardhanan after the spot-fixing scandal broke out four years ago.
Janardhanan played an active role in the scandal, and as such there was nothing to connect Sreesanth with the deal. “Complacency in the matter on the part of Sreesanth is really condemnable. To uphold the dignity of the game, he should have publically disowned the conduct of Janardhanan, especially when his name was dragged into the controversy. Anyhow, having suffered the ban for four years, nothing more is required in this matter,’’ the judge observed. Meanwhile, reacting to the court verdict, Sreesanth said his first preference was to get into the Kerala team. “I would soon become active on the ground. Scores of people had supported me in this crisis. I thank all those who had stood with me. I am indebted to them,’’ he told media in Kochi.
After Monday’s order, when The Indian Express contacted the BCCI’s acting president CK Khanna, he said: “We have referred the issue to the legal department of the BCCI. As soon as we get their report, we will take the appropriate decision.” Former Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) president TC Mathew, now a senior member of the state association, spoke about waiting for the cricket board’s decision. “We are actually waiting for the BCCI decision. It’s up to the BCCI… The BCCI only banned Sreesanth. So the BCCI will have to give him the NOC to play. Here we have to actually abide by the high court order and all pending payments released. But until the NOC from the BCCI is coming, it’s not possible for the KCA to allow him to play (any official cricket),” Mathew told this paper. Asked if Sreesanth got in touch with the state association after the high court order, he replied in the affirmative. “Today he has spoken to me. But I told him that it’s for the present office-bearers to take a call. I requested Sreesanth to contact the current president and secretary of the KCA.”