Sreesanth ban 'against principles of natural justice'
Sreesanth's legal counsel has called the life ban imposed by the BCCI "bizarre", against the principles of natural justice and unlikely to stand legal scrutiny, and said the player would challenge the ban in court once he received a copy of the order. A day after Sreesanth was handed the ban by the BCCI's disciplinary committee, his counsel Rebecca John said the biggest flaw was the report drew heavily on the police findings in the criminal case, which itself is yet to reach a verdict.
The sanctions were based on the report compiled by the board's anti-corruption commissioner Ravi Sawani.
"The [BCCI] order is completely against the principles of natural justice," John told ESPNcricinfo. If Sawani had relied so heavily on the findings of Delhi Police, she said, then the least he and the BCCI should have done was wait for the final verdict by the Patiala House Court in Delhi, which is hearing the case.
"It has based its findings on personal interactions with members of Delhi Police as well as taken material from the chargesheet that has been filed by the police before a sessions court. If that is so then they should have waited for the court to determine whether or not any of this holds up in legal proceedings. They just picked up conversations they had with members of Delhi Police where they said Sreesanth and other members of the cricketing community confessed before them. It is a very, very loose report with little or no substance in it," John, who was hired by Sreesanth as soon as Delhi Police arrested him on corruption charges during the IPL in May, said.
She pointed out that the evidence produced by Delhi Police against all the Rajasthan Royal players was found to be insufficient to keep them in custody - the sessions court has granted bail to all of them, including Sreesanth. "The fact is that the sessions court has released players on bail and said none of this adds up as a case. [The court said] it is very, very tenuous - the link between whatever bookie you are saying had a role to play and the players, particularly Sreesanth, and granted him bail. And then this BCCI's one-man committee says that Sreesanth is guilty of spot-fixing and hands over a life sentence to him. Not only is it is excessive, it is completely contrary to all principles of natural justice."
John said that from what she had read of his report on the internet, Sawani's findings, especially on Sreesanth, never added up to a case. "How does he come to a conclusion? By having personal conversations with police officials. And you are basing your findings on these?"
In his report Sawani had noted that he listened to and read the transcripts of audio tapes in possession of Delhi Police of conversations between Sreesanth and the alleged bookie. "If you want to read these audio tapes, which are part of the Delhi Police [evidence] in a criminal trial, the link is so tenuous. You will believe it only because the Special Cell of Delhi Police is saying you will have to believe it in a particular way. In any case these are allegations which have to be assessed, processed and a finding has to be determined by a court of law," John said.
According to John Sreesanth is on bail only because "prima facie" Delhi Police had not managed to press a foolproof case against him. "The only reason the life ban was imposed - Mr Srinivasan was very keen to tell the public and the people of India he was treating [the issue] with a heavy hand and some people had to be made scapegoats," John said.
"What is more annoying from the point of the view of the players is that they have let the big fish get away. What happens to Mr Srinivasan. He is owner of Chennai Super Kings and there is a case of conflict of interest pending in the Supreme Court against him. The Bombay High Court recently had called the two-member committee illegal after it cleared Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra [part of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals] from corruption charges.
"Now when the BCCI, of which Srinivasan is the de facto or de jure head, conducts itself in this kind of fashion and then it hands over these sentences to players, who are soft targets, it is a little bizarre," John said.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo