CSK, RR owners suspended for two years
In an order with far-reaching implications, the RM Lodha committee has suspended India Cements and Jaipur IPL, the owners of the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals teams, for a period of two years. The committee has also banned for life Gurunath Meiyappan, a former team official of Super Kings, and Raj Kundra, a former Royals co-owner, from any involvement in cricket matches.
The committee's order effectively leaves the two companies with teams that cannot play. Super Kings have twice won the IPL, and are perennial tournament favourites, while Royals won the inaugural edition. The onus is now on the BCCI and the two companies to work out the way forward, to decide whether the teams will be in a two-year limbo or play under different ownership.
The news sent officials of the two franchises, and also of the BCCI, which owns the IPL, into a series of meetings as they began to make sense of the judgement. The IPL governing council is likely to meet over the weekend, and the BCCI's working committee might meet before that. In a brief statement Jagmohan Dalmiya, the BCCI president, said it was "committed to honour and respect judicial decisions and it would give its observations after the entire report is read and a collective decision is taken."
Among the franchises, the initial sense was that both would appeal against the decision, though the sheer composition of this committee - Lodha is a former Chief Justice of India and Ashok Bhan and RV Raveendran are retired judges of the Supreme Court - suggests any court would be wary of overturning the decision.
The committee, which made its report public in a 45-minute session in New Delhi, said its ruling was based on disciplinary grounds, on behalf of the BCCI. It refused to accept the argument that the acts of Gurunath and Kundra were personal, and that the franchises could thus not be held responsible.
"Disrepute has been brought to cricket, the BCCI and the IPL to such an extent that there are doubts abound in the public whether the game is clean or not," Lodha, a former Chief Justice of India, said.
"Jaipur IPL claims it is highly celebrated as a nursery of players. But three of its players have accused of alleged spot-fixing. This shows that all is not well in their handling of affairs. The position of Raj Kundra with the Rajasthan Royals franchise - part owner and team official - means his actions brought the game, BCCI and IPL into disrepute."
Kundra responded on Twitter by saying, "Many inaccuracies...Have requested for a copy of the judgement. Obviously very shocked and disappointed..."
The panel came down hard on Gurunath, who they felt had caused "huge injury" to the image of the game, and said that India Cements had not shown to have taken any action against him.
"Any agony suffered by him because of media coverage or any hardship that may have been caused to him is too small in comparison to the huge injury he caused to the reputation and image of the game, the IPL and the BCCI. If the reputation and image of the sport are lost, what remains? Being 40 years of age, he is not young but middle-aged. It is difficult to accept that he has passion for the game.
"Not only that no urgent action was taken by India Cements against Gurunath Meiyappan but as a matter of fact no action has been shown to have been taken against him. The order of suspension passed by the BCCI against GM after his arrest is not an action by India Cements against its official."
Former High Court Judge Mukul Mudgal, who was part of the three-member probe panel which conducted an independent investigation into the corruption allegations, called the verdict a "temporary setback" for the IPL, but one that was taken for the "greater good" of cricket.
"I'm sorry, but if the franchise is banned, how can the team escape? So this has to happen," Mudgal told the Times Now news channel. "It's a consequence of some wrongdoing and it also sends a message all across, right to the top, don't indulge in any wrong doing.
"Please remember however great it may be, however popular it may be, it's about the game of cricket. And therefore in the long run it will benefit the IPL. There is a current feeling that all matches in the IPL are fixed, which is a totally wrong feeling. I can only think that this step will restore people's confidence in the game of cricket and in the IPL."