The RM Lodha-led committee, which also includes former judges Ashok Bhan and RV Raveendran, will declare the ‘quantum of punishment’ on Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra as well as their respective IPL franchises, CSK and RR, with regards to the spot-fixing scandal on Tuesday. The Indian Express looks at the findings of the Supreme Court and the Mudgal committee concerning the key characters whose fate will be decided by the Lodha committee.
The Sundar Raman Saga
In its January judgement, the Supreme Court said that there were allegations against the IPL COO about having been in constant touch with Vindoo Dara Singh with records of 350 phone conversations between them during the 2013 IPL. The other allegation against Sundar Raman was failing to take any action against IPL franchise owners and team officials despite receiving information about their betting activities. The SC quoted from both the Probe Committee’s report as well as the findings of BB Mishra, a key member of the Mudgal committee.
BB Mishra’s report on Sundar Raman submitted on August 28, 2014:
“The allegation emanated from a statement of Bindra. The verification so far indicates that Vindoo Dara Singh and Sundar Raman knew each other, but in the years 2012 and 2013, they have hardly made calls to each other. The CDR of Vindoo Dara Singh for the period 01.01.2013 to 20.5.2013 which is available doesn’t indicate any call made/received by him to/from Sunder Raman.”
Mudgal committee report on Raman, referred to as Individual 12:
“This individual knew a contact of a bookie and had contacted him eight times in one season. This individual admitted knowing the contact of the bookies but however claimed to be unaware of his connection with betting activities. This individual also accepted that he had received information about individual 1 and individual 11 taking part in betting activities but was informed by ICC-ACSU chief that this was not actionable information. This individual also accepted that this information was not conveyed to any other individual.”
Supreme Court judgement on Sundar Raman:
“The Probe Committe stopped short of recording a specific finding regarding the complicity of Mr.Sundar Raman in the betting racket, nor is there any explicit justification provided by the report for the finding that 8 and not 350 calls were made between Mr. Sundar Raman and Vindoo Dara Singh. Suffice it to say that the report submitted by the investigating team and the Probe Committee do not indict Mr. Sundar Raman in clear words. The observations made regarding his role and conduct simply give rise to a serious suspicion about his involvement in the betting affairs of the team owners/officials”
“Truth about the allegations, made against Mr. Sundar Raman, must be brought to light, for it is only then that all suspicions about the fraudulent activities and practices floating in the me dia against the BCCI and its 130 administrators in several proceedings before different courts can be given a quietus.”
The Srinivasan angle
What the SC judgement said after finding him not guilty:
“The allegation that an effort was made to suppress facts before the Mudgal Committee or that Mr. Gurunath was shown only as a cricket enthusiast whereas he was a team official, may, at best, raise a suspicion against Mr. Srinivasan but suspicion can hardly be taken as proof to hold him guilty of the alleged cover up. We cannot, therefore, with any amount of certainty, say that the charge of attempted cover up leveled against Mr. Srinivasan stands proved. Our answer to question No.4 is, therefore, in the negative.”
Conflict of Interest:
In January, the SC had struck down the amendment to rule 6.2.4 of the BCCI constitution, which allowed administrators to acquire or hold commercial interest in events like IPL and Champions League. They had even referred to the amendment as the ‘true villain’. “There has being so, a clear conflict of interest has arisen between what is Mr. Srinivasan’s duty as President of BCCI on the one hand and his interest as father-in-law of Mr. Gurunath Meiyappan and owner of team CSK on the other. Three real life situations that have arisen in the past, qua India Cements owned by Mr. Srinivasan’s family and captained by him, simply demonstrate how such conflicts have arisen between the duty which Mr. Srinivasan owes to BCCI and through the BCCI to the cricketing world at large and his commercial if not personal interest in the events which BCCI organizes,” the SC judgement said.
Justice Thakur’s scathing remarks about how inert the BCCI have been about dealing with the spot-fixing scandal:
“The question is whether the BCCI can afford to see the game lose its credibility in the eyes of those who watch it, by allowing an impression to gather ground that what goes on in the name of the game is no more than a farce because of sporting frauds like betting, match fixing and the like. Can the BCCI live with the idea of the game being seen only as a means to cheat the unsuspecting and gullible spectators watching the proceedings whether in the stadium or on the television with the passion one rarely sees in any other sporting enterprise.
“BCCI’s commercial plans for its own benefit and the benefit of the players are bound to blow up in smoke, if the people who watch and support the game were to lose interest or be indifferent because, they get to know that some business interests have hijacked the game for their own ends or that the game is no longer the game they know or love because of frauds on and off the field.”
‘Gurunath Meiyappan is the de facto CSK owner’
What Mudgal report said:
In its report submitted on February 9, 2014, the Mudgal committee had concluded that Meiyappan was the face of the CSK team along with being a de facto owner. It also found that he was in constant touch with bookies and punters, and traced several calls between him and Vindoo Dara Singh where Meiyappan was proved to be placing bets on and against his team even while IPL matches were on.
“Gurunath Meiyappan had knowledge of or was in a position to easily access sensitive team information, team strategies, knowledge about match conditions….In one instance, Mr. Gurunath Meiyappan made certain predictions to Mr. Vindoo Dara Singh regarding the runs that would be scored in a match between CSK and Rajasthan Royals held on 12th May, 2013 at Jaipur. According to Mr. Meiyappan’s prediction that CSK would score 130-140 runs came true as CSK actually scored 141 runs only,” the report said.
The SC judgement:
In their judgement, the SC said it had no compelling reason to disagree with or reverse the conclusions of the Mudgal committee and accepted that Meiyappan was a team official and that he had indulged in betting. “We find that the Probe Committee has correctly appreciated the facts as emerging from the documents and the depositions of witnesses recorded by it and rightly come to the conclusion that Gurunath Meiyappan was a team official of CSK.
“That is so especially when India Cements Ltd. who owns the team made a candid admission before us that Gurunath Meiyappan was indeed a team official within the meaning of that expression under the rules.
“The material assembled in the course of the investigation by the Probe Committe provides a reasonably safe basis for holding that the accusations made against Gurunath Meiyappan stood established on a preponderance of probabilities,” the judgment read.
‘Raj Kundra had indulged in betting’
What the Mudgal report said:
Raj Kundra was referred to as Individual No.11 by the Committee and was said to be in touch with bookies and that he was friends with a known punter, who had provided a statement that he had placed bets on behalf of the RR co-owner.
“Thus by not reporting contact with the bookie has violated BCCI/IPL Anti-Corruption Code. The Committee also found that the investigation against this individual was abruptly and without reason stopped by the Rajasthan Police upon receiving the case papers from Delhi Police. Individual 11 had introduced him (punter) to another bookie who dealt with larger stakes. Section 161 statement made by another player confirmed that individual 11 introduced him to a bookie. Materials on record indicate that individual 11 was placing bets or was at the minimum standing guarantee for his punter friend,” the Mudgal report said.
The Supreme Court judgement:
The apex body concurred with the findings of the Probe Committee regarding Kundra’s involvement in betting.
“So long as Mudgal Committee has conducted the proceedings in consonance with the principles of natural justice, the Committee’s finding that Raj Kundra was a team official of Rajasthan Royals and that he had indulged in betting cannot be faulted,” it read.
Can CSK and Rajasthan Royals be terminated on Tuesday?
Yes, they can be. But only if the Lodha committee finds that the gravity of the misconduct indulged in by the persons (Meiyappan and Kundra) is grave enough for them to recommend the sternest action against the two franchises.
If they were to do so, there are two separate clauses in the IPL Operational Rules that they can rely on.
BCCI-IPL Franchise agreement: BCCI-IPL may terminate this Agreement with immediate effect by written notice if: the Franchisee, any Franchisee Group Company and/or any Owner acts in any way which has a material adverse effect upon the reputation or standing of the League, BCCI-IPL, BCCI, the Franchisee, the Team (or any other team in the League) and/or the game of cricket.”
So the Lodha committee have to infer that Meiyappan and Kundra through their alleged betting activities compromised the agreement.
Anti Corruption Code: Where the facts of the alleged incident are not adequately or clearly covered by any of the above offences, conduct that either; (a) is contrary to the spirit of the game; or (b) brings the game into disrepute.
Sanction: The Commission may, through BCCI, impose one or more of the following sanctions or actions in relation to any Offence;
(b) suspend a Player or other Person Subject to these Operational Rules form playing or otherwise being involved in Matches for a specified period;
(c) suspend a Team or Franchisee from the League;
According to the SC judgement, “Gurunath Meiyappan having been found to be a team official of Chennai Super Kings is a “player support personnel” hence a participant within the meaning of the Anti-Corruption Code.
What is important is that apart from Gurunath Meiyappan in his capacity as the team official if any participant connected with CSK, authorises, causes, knowingly assists, encourages, aids, abets, covers up or is otherwise complicit in any act of omission he/she will also be liable to action under the Anti-Corruption Code as if he/she had himself/herself committed the act of misconduct.”
The Supreme Court quoted from the Probe Committee’s conclusion on Meiyappan.
“The Committee is also of the opinion that the franchisee owner of CSK is responsible for failing to ensure Mr. Meiyappan (Team Officials) had complied with the BCCI Anti-Corruption Code, IPL Operational rules, IPL Regulations and hence the franchisee’s actions are in violation of Section 4.4.1 of the IPL Operational Rules and Clause 11.3 of the franchises agreement,” it read.
Why was the Lodha committee appointed?
The SC directed an independent committee to deliver the verdict citing two reasons. Firstly, the apex body felt that it would be overreaching its jurisdiction if it were to impose the punishment by itself since the BCCI was an autonomous body. But at the same time, the SC didn’t want to leave the award of punishment to the BCCI and instead wanted to remove any apprehension of bias.
“…..the power to punish for misconduct vests in the BCCI. We do not consider it proper to clutch at the jurisdiction of BCCI to impose a suitable punishment. At the same time we do not think that in a matter like this the award of a suitable punishment to those liable for such punishment can be left to the BCCI,” the SC noted.