The Supreme Court-appointed justice RM Lodha committee on Tuesday suspended the owners of IPL franchises Chennai Super Kings, two-time champions in the IPL, and Rajasthan Royals from the cash-rich cricket league for two years and also banned their key team officials — Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra — for life for indulging in betting in the 2013 season and bringing the IPL and the game into disrepute.
Giving the committee’s observations on Meiyappan, the former CJI said it has proved beyond doubt that the CSK official was heavily involved in placing bets on his own team. “His (Gurunath) habit of regularly placing bets in IPL matches renders the argument of his being first offender and unblemished antecedents in previous IPL tournaments of no worth. That he lost up to R60 lakh in bets shows that he engaged himself in heavy bets. It is his bad luck that he did not make money out of these bets,” he said.
“He (Meiyappan) is declared ineligible for participation in the sport of cricket as explained in the anti-corruption code for a maximum period of five years under article 2.2.1. Two: He is suspended for life from activities as explained in article 7.5 under level 4. And three: He is suspended for life from being involved in any type of cricket matches under section 6, rule 4.2. The above sanctions commence from the date of this order,” Lodha said while reading out the same punishment for Kundra, co-owner of Rajasthan Royals, husband of Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty.
“India Cements argued that they have done a lot to grow the game of cricket. But it cannot be a mitigating factor because they as franchise owners did not punish Gurunath, who was clearly identified as a team official, after he was found guilty of betting. It was only the BCCI who suspended Gurunath from participating in cricket,” Lodha said.
Making scathing remarks against the accused, the former CJI said: “Jaipur IPL claims it is highly celebrated as a nursery of players. But three of its players have been 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,” he said.
He further added that “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 further said that “no aspect touching criminal liability has been decided by us”.
The panel was constituted by the SC in January this year with the mandate to announce the quantum of punishment against Meiyappan, Kundra and the two franchisees — India Cements, owner of star-studded CSK and Jaipur IPL, owner of Rajasthan Royals. Justice Lodhad said then that the verdict “shall be final and binding upon the BCCI and the parties concerned”.