The Supreme Court setting aside the life ban imposed by the BCCI on fast bowler S Sreesanth is another case of a cricket board punishment falling flat before the court of law.
On Friday, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice K M Joseph pronounced the order and directed the BCCI to reconsider the punishment within three months. The 35-year-old cricketer will get an opportunity to be heard by BCCI’s disciplinary committee on the quantum of the punishment, the court further ruled.
Previously, the Andhra Pradesh High Court had declared the life ban imposed on Mohammad Azharuddin as illegal. The BCCI had banned Azhar in the wake of the Cronje-gate at the turn of the century. Sreesanth was handed the punishment by the cricket board for his alleged involvement in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing.
While representing Sreesanth, senior advocate Salman Khurshid drew the Azhar analogy and argued that if a life ban on the former India captain can be reversed, then why can’t the same be done for his client. The BCCI maintained that it has a water-tight case against Sreesanth and the life ban cannot be revoked. The Kerala cricketer, on the other hand, described the punishment as “completely unfair”.
The fact of the matter is that the Indian Penal Code doesn’t yet have spot-fixing and match-fixing in sport as an offence. As the erstwhile Law Minister Kapil Sibal had said, the ‘offence of cheating’ doesn’t “adequately deal with issues of spot-fixing and match-fixing”.
Also, in these cases, investigators rely a lot on circumstantial evidence. Law, however, demands proofs. Maybe, this is a reason why the BCCI inquests at times fall short on strictly legal parameters, letter of the law that is.
Interestingly, the court hasn’t disturbed the findings of guilt made by the BCCI disciplinary committee against Sreesanth. Also, the order shall have no effect on criminal proceedings pending against the player. All these suggest how important it has become to make match-fixing/sports fraud a criminal offence as per the recommendation made by the Law Commission of India.