S Sreesanth and Company – What Lies Ahead
“Highly unlikely that the BCCI will overrule its disciplinary panel’s verdict to ban Sreesanth,” writes Shivam Singh
A Delhi trial court (Patiala House) recently discharged all thirty-six accused - three cricketers included- in the IPL spot fixing criminal trial. It observed that there was no prima facie evidence to indicate that the accused persons had committed a criminal offence.
It held that the Delhi Police did not prove the commission of criminal actions under either the Indian Penal Code, 1860 or the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act and therefore there was no reason to proceed with the criminal trial.
But what does this mean for the cricketers and the BCCI?
Delhi Police Likely to Appeal
While the verdict represents a major victory for the cricketers as their name stands cleared in the criminal case relating to spot-fixing, this joy is likely short-lived as the Delhi Police seems keen to lodge an appeal before the Delhi High Court.
Existence of Simultaneous Criminal Trial and Disciplinary Action
Apart from the criminal trial, the accused cricketers had also faced BCCI’s disciplinary action including life bans. This happened, because Indian law permits criminal prosecution and civil proceedings for the same set of events.
For a person to face criminal sanctions however, it is required that the offence must be proved beyond reasonable doubt and any benefit of doubt must be granted to the accused persons.
However for a disciplinary proceeding- like that of the BCCI- punishment can be imposed on completely different parameters, as on a balance of available evidence, it must be seen that the erring person has violated the disciplinary code of conduct.
Mutually Exclusive Effects
While popular sentiment might be in favor of the accused cricketers after the High Court ruling, it is unlikely to affect the BCCI’s decision to ban the players for life.
Strictly speaking, the BCCI would be legally correct to argue that the standard of proof required in a court of law was much higher than what is needed to prove guilt in an internal disciplinary misconduct case.
Is There a Way Back for The Cricketers?
Any modification in the BCCI’s decision to ban S Sreesanth can occur if the board itself decides to review its disciplinary committee verdict, however, this outcome seems very unlikely.
The cricket board has already copped a lot of stick from the courts for ineffective administrative policies of late. And at a time when the Justice Lodha commission is suggesting major structural overhauls for the BCCI, it appears remote that they would voluntarily review their decision barring the existence of compelling reasons.
Alternately, the players can file a writ petition to challenge the BCCI decision before a High Court. Any legal proceeding is likely to be long-winded and the players are unlikely to secure any immediate relief in the near future.
Time Running Out For Sreesanth
Cricketers have a limited shelf-life and most cricketers find it difficult to stage effective comebacks once they are in their 30s. Given that Sreesanth is already 32, not match-fit and competing for a fast bowler’s slot against much younger peers, it is difficult for him to imagine an India call-up in the near future.
(The author is a Counsel at the Supreme Court of India and a Visiting Faculty for Sports Law at Columbia University, New York and Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economia (ISDE), Madrid.)
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