The Supreme Court-appointed panel, headed by former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha, will on Tuesday announce the quantum of punishment against Gurunath Meiyappan, Raj Kundra and their franchises in the IPL betting and spot-fixing controversy.
The January 22 verdict by a bench led by Justice TS Thakur had authorised the panel to determine the quantum of punishment under the IPL operational rules and the BCCI anti-corruption code.
The bench had asked the committee, also comprising former SC judges Justices Ashok Bhan and RV Raveendran, to issue notices to all those likely to be affected and hear them out before taking a final view on the punishment.
It had underscored: “The order passed by the Committee shall 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 bench had noted that criminal cases were already underway before appropriate courts and hence the panel required to deal with only such issues that pertained to breach of IPL operational rules and the BCCI anti-corruption code. Hence, the punishment by the panel will be confined to measures like punitive damages, suspension and cancellation of franchises in extreme cases.
As per the SC judgment, the only caveat to the finality of the orders by the Justice Lodha panel is the proceeding that may be initiated before the top court by a person or entity offended by the punishment awarded by the committee.
Whosoever is aggrieved with the punishment can approach the bench led by Justice Thakur, citing specific reasons why the petition should be entertained. But the only ground that may cause the apex court to interfere with Justice Lodha panel’s orders is violation of the principles of natural justice. If an entity can show to the court that no notices had been issued by the panel or the right to be heard was otherwise trampled upon, the bench should be inclined to entertain the plea.
Resorting to technical grounds is not likely to move the bench, for it has unequivocally held that the orders by the committee shall be “final and binding.” When the bench has itself empowered the panel to decide the quantum of punishment after confuting a thorough investigation, it is highly improbable there will be any interdiction by the top court in implementation of the panel’s orders.
The BCCI cannot sit over in appeal against the decisions by Justice Lodha panel since the bench made it amply clear that these decisions shall be “binding” also on the cricketing body. Further, the sole remedy prescribed by the court is “appropriate judicial proceedings” which by stretch of imagination can take within its ambit proceedings before the BCCI. The term “judicial proceedings” clearly mean it is only a constitutional court — in this case only the Supreme Court since it is a high-powered committee — that can take up any appeal against the panel’s decision.
However, this will be in sole discretion of Justice Thakur’s bench to admit any appeal against the panel’s order and given the power it clothed Justice Lodha panel with, a distressed entity would require concrete arguments to convince the court for a hearing.
Also, the bench had in its judgment asked the panel to examine and make suitable recommendations to the BCCI for such reforms in its practices and procedures and such amendments in the Memorandum of Association, Rules and Regulations.
These recommendations may not be binding straightaway but it would be very difficult for the BCCI to ignore or reject them since the BCCI will be answerable to the court if it opts to oppose all or some of the recommendations made by Justice Lodha panel.
New petitions can also line up in the court in case the BCCI chooses to turn down certain significant measures recommended by the panel over issues like conflict of interest and to meet “demands of institutional integrity” in larger public interest while discharging what the court called “important public functions”.
“There are two issues here. The parties (Gurunath Meiyappan, Raj Kundra, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals) will always have the right to challenge the verdict before the court. As for the cricket board, the Supreme Court has said the decision of the Lodha committee is final and binding on the BCCI,” former board president and legal eagle Shashank Manohar said.
However, there were others within the BCCI who do not agree with this view. “If the BCCI feels aggrieved, even they can seek redressal from the courts,” a source said.
Some BCCI members like former secretary Niranjan Shah also feels the Lodha committee may give recommendations about the BCCI’s administrative functioning and the cricket board can exercise its discretion.