Indian cricket’s D-Day is upon us. The Supreme Court-appointed Justice Lodha Committee will, on Tuesday, announce the quantum of punishment for Gurunath Meiyappan, Raj Kundra and their respective franchises — Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) — for their involvement in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal.
“Cricket is a beautiful game. It has to be clean. Otherwise, it’s not worth watching,” Justice Lodha, the 41st Chief Justice of India, told dna on Monday. Asked if the concerned teams could be banned from playing in the cash-rich league or, for that matter, fined heavily, the eminent jurist said, “I am not in a position to disclose anything. Please wait for a few more hours… Jawaharlal Nehru used to say that the most important aspect of sport is the sporting spirit. I believe so too.” Asked which cricketer he admired the most, the 65-year-old said, “Gundappa Viswanath is my all-time favourite. I enjoyed watching his wristy play.” He added that the committee had done its job in right earnest. “There is no such thing as pressure for a judge. I just do my job,” he said.
Appointed on January 22, the three-member committee — chaired by Justice Lodha and comprising former Supreme Court judges Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice RV Raveendran — travelled the length and breadth of the country to meet with senior BCCI officials, members of the IPL governing council, retired and present cricketers, and journalists.
A harsh verdict could spell doom for the IPL, which comprises eight teams and is a money-spinner for Indian cricket. It could also put a question mark on the immediate IPL future of superstars like MS Dhoni, Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja (all CSK), Steve Smith, Shane Watson, Stuart Binny and James Faulkner (all RR).
The announcement could have serious financial consequences for Brand IPL and everyone associated with it.
The Lodha Committee has also been assigned the task of deciding on the quantum of punishment for IPL chief operating officer Sundar Raman as well as suggesting measures to improve the functioning of the BCCI. It is expected to carry out these tasks in the near future. For now, it is ready with its verdict on Meiyappan and CSK, and Kundra and RR.
Meiyappan, who is the son-in-law of former BCCI president and reigning ICC chairman N Srinivasan, was found guilty of betting on IPL matches. So was Kundra, a London-based businessman married to Bollywood starlet Shilpa Shetty. Consequently, their respective franchises are also in the dock for breaching the IPL’s code of conduct.
RR officials weren’t available for comment, but CSK owner Srinivasan didn’t seem perturbed. “I am holidaying in London,” he told this paper. BCCI officials were also tight-lipped.
To quote the Supreme Court, “The order passed by the (Justice Lodha) Committee shall be final and binding upon the BCCI and the parties concerned.” However, don’t be surprised if the concerned parties file an appeal in the apex court after learning the sanctions imposed by the panel.
The IPL corruption scandal dates back to May 16, 2013, when three RR cricketers including Test player S Sreesanth were arrested by the Delhi Police from Mumbai. The Delhi High Court recently reserved its verdict in this case.