KOCHI: A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Tuesday upheld the order of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) imposing a life ban on S Sreesanth in the IPL match-fixing scandal. The Bench issued the order while allowing the appeal filed by BCCI seeking to quash a single judge’s order lifting the life ban imposed on him.
In the appeal, BCCI stated its working committee discussed the Patiala House court order. However, considering the breach of conditions set by the BCCI, it decided not to lift the ban. This decision was, among other factors, taken on the basis of the zero tolerance policy of the board towards match-fixing in cricket.
BCCI said the Single Judge had erred in interfering with the decision of the disciplinary committee by way of a complete re-appraisal of proof to hold Sreesanth was not guilty of match-fixing.
This was contrary to the settled position of law that a High Court exercising its jurisdiction under Article 226 could not reappraise the evidence called during the inquiry or substitute its own finding of the disciplinary authority. The role of a High Court is limited to a determination of whether the inquiry is held by a competent authority, in accordance with the procedure prescribed or whether the principles of natural justice are adhered to. Accepting the contentions of BCCI, the Bench said the High Court was doing a judicial review and not sitting as an appellate authority over the decision of the disciplinary committee of the BCCI.
The High Court could only examine if the decision-making process had been fair and proper. However, the single judge had substituted its own findings. It was improper and exceeding the limits of judicial review. The single judge did not find Sreesanth not guilty or the single judge did not find the procedure adopted by the disciplinary committee stood vitiated. But the Single Judge had held assuming Sreesanth had knowledge of betting, it was of the view the punishment already suffered by him of four years of the ban was sufficient to meet ends of justice, to which the Division Bench said the court was deciding matters legally.
The Division Bench said that considering the seriousness of the matter there had to be zero tolerance towards such corruption charges, hence Sreesanth could not escape from punishment.
The BCCI said the Single Judge failed to appreciate that no effort was made on behalf of Sreesanth to disassociate himself from the allegation against Jiju Janardhanan and Sreesanth never made an attempt to disprove the allegations against Janardhanan. This was a clear indication of Sreesanth’s involvement in the incident of match-fixing.
The Division Bench also found there was no violation of natural justice. Sreesanth had been given sufficient opportunity by the BCCI committee to explain his stand. The disciplinary committee order on September 13, 2013 was passed only after a thorough perusal, a detailed analysis and comprehensive consideration of all the evidence on record. The court also noted even if Sreesanth had knowledge of betting, he was bound to intimate BCCI’s authorities of the same at the earliest.