New Delhi, July 26 (IANS) A court here on Saturday dropped charges against cricketer S. Sreesanth and 35 other accused in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing case, saying the prosecution failed to establish the nexus of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s crime syndicate in cricket betting.
The BCCI, however, said its decision regarding a life ban on the former pace bowler, shall remain unaltered.
Additional Sessions Judge Neena Bansal Krishna discharged cricketers Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, and 33 others. All 36 accused were out on bail.
Delhi Police chargesheeted them for cheating and conspiracy under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and provisions of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.
“… even if entire evidence of prosecution is accepted, then too it is not established that there exists a core crime syndicate of Dawood, Chhota Shakeel who have been indulging in the organised offence of betting and match-fixing and also dealing with money so generated through hawala,” the judge said in the 175-page order.
The court noted that Delhi Police failed to establish any nexus or link between various accused with Dawood’s aide Javed Chutani, as part of an organised group, and said a case under MCOCA is not made out.
The court announced its order in a jam packed room — full of lawyers, journalists and other people.
Soon after the court ordered that all accused were discharged, Sreesanth broke down.
Welcoming the verdict, Sreesanth told reporters that he had faith in the judiciary and believed that he will be released in the case.
He thanked god and referred to Saturday as the best day of his life when he could walk away freely.
Sreesanth hoped that he could now return to cricket.
However, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in a press statement said the decision of the board based on its independent disciplinary action, shall remain unaltered.
“Any disciplinary proceeding or decision taken by the BCCI is independent to any criminal proceeding and has no bearing,” the BCCI said.
In September 2013, the disciplinary committee of the board banned Sreesanth and Chavan for life for their involvement in spot-fixing during certain matches of the Indian Premier League 2013.
On May 16, 2013, Rajasthan Royals players Sreesanth, Chandila and Chavan were arrested by Delhi Police for alleged spot-fixing in the IPL.
On June 10, 2013, Sreesanth and Chavan were granted bail while Chandila walked out of jail on September 9, 2013.
Delhi Police filed a chargesheet on July 30, 2013, alleging that underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and his aide Chhota Shakeel were behind the spot-fixing scandal.
The formal set of charges, running into 6,000 pages, named Sreesanth, Chandila and Chavan, among other 42 accused, in the scandal related to the IPL-6 held in 2013.
Six accused, including Dawood and Shakeel, are on the run. Dawood and Shakeel have been declared proclaimed offenders in the case after police completed proceedings of their property attachment.
Relieved after the court’s decision, Chandila said the period following the spot-fixing scandal was “the worst part” of his life.
Hoping that he will get back to cricket again, Chandila said it was a tough time but with support from his family and friends, he survived.
Relatives and well-wishers present in the court room welcomed the decision with joy.
Meanwhile, Delhi Police moved a last-minute plea to conduct further investigation in the case citing that the recently published Justice Lodha Commission report has brought “new evidence”.
Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly said the BCCI should not have a problem with Sreesanth making a comeback, now that the bowler has been cleared of all charges. However, Ganguly chose to refrain from commenting on the legal order.
Kerala Ranji Trophy team senior coach P. Balachandran said Sreesanth will be accepted “with open arms”.
“I cannot say about any technical hitches, but the moment the BCCI lifts the ban, we will accept him with open arms,” said Balachandran, a former Kerala Ranji captain.
Sreesanth’s parents wept tears of joy as TV channels announced that their son was exonerated of all charges.
A beaming Sreesanth told reporters soon after coming out of the court: “I want to play cricket again and I wish that the BCCI gives me permission to use the facility to get fit again. I went through a lot of troubles. I am just waiting to bowl those outswingers.”
“Thanks to all, and this is a reply to all those who made fun of me,” he said.
“Thanks to all and my wife and our child came as an angel. I just want to start again and am just waiting to run on the ground,” he said.
BCCI vice president and Kerala Cricket Association president T.C. Mathew described the news as “the best news to have come” and the KCA will ask the BCCI to revoke the life ban.
Sreesanth’s cricketing career took a nosedive after he was arrested.
Only the second Keralite to represent India in international cricket, Sreesanth played in 27 Tests (87 wickets), 53 ODIs (75) and 10 T20Is (7 wickets).