'It is to be noted that there are no incriminating evidence to pinpoint Sreesanth's involvement in sport fixing deal.'
In a relief to cricketer Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, the Kerala high court on Monday lifted the life ban imposed on him by the Board of Control for Cricket in India in the wake of the spot-fixing scandal in the sixth edition of the Indian Premier League in 2013, saying there was no incriminating evidence to pinpoint his involvement in match fixing.
In his order, Justice A Muhamed Mustaque also set aside all proceedings against Sreesanth initiated by the BCCI.
"It is to be noted that there are no incriminating evidence to pinpoint Sreesanth's involvement in sport fixing deal," the judge said.
Reacting to the verdict, 34-year-old pacer Sreesanth said he is "grateful to God."
He said he has started preparations for playing the game and his aim is to find a place in the Kerala cricket team.
The Kerala Cricket Association said it would take a "positive" decision on Sreesanth's bid to play in for the state in domestic cricket.
The court said that Sreesanth never attempted to disapprove of the conduct of Jiju Janardhanan, accused of spot-fixing, after the scandal broke out.
The court said, in fact, the impassive conduct of Sreesanth made the BCCI disciplinary committee suspect his role and to conclude that there was circumstantial evidence against him.
"Complacency in the matter on the part of Sreesanth is really condemnable. To uphold the dignity of the game, he should have publicly disapproved (of) the conduct of Jiju Janardanan, especially when his name was dragged into the controversy.
"Any how, having suffered a ban now almost for four years, nothing further is required in this matter," the court said.
It said there was no material or evidence before the disciplinary committee to conclude that Sreesanth was guilty of violation of the anti-corruption code framed by the BCCI.
The court said though the BCCI's efforts to weed out corruption and uphold the dignity of the game needed to be emphasised, that should not be in a way by overzealously reacting to it.
"It must be remembered that in every disciplinary action related to a player of national repute, the player suffers his repute and confidence which he built through hard work," it said.
Justice Mustaque said, "In the result, the writ petition is allowed. The life ban and other punishment imposed on Sreesanth pursuant to the disciplinary proceedings against Sreesanth stand quashed and are set aside...," he said.
The court had earlier sought the BCCI's stand on the plea by the cricketer challenging the life ban imposed upon him by the game's governing body following the spot-fixing scandal in IPL-6.
The BCCI had filed a counter-affidavit on the issue in the court in response to the plea by Sreesanth, who had challenged the life ban despite a Delhi court dropping all charges against him.
"The decision of the sessions court to acquit the petitioner from the criminal charges has no impact whatsoever on the decision of the internal disciplinary committee of the BCCI to ban the petitioner from playing cricket tournaments organised by the BCCI and/or its affiliates," the Indian Cricket Board had said.
It had said the question before the court was whether the petitioner (and other accused) was liable to incur penal consequences under relevant criminal statutes.
On the other hand, the question before the BCCI disciplinary committee was whether the petitioner was guilty of match fixing, corruption and gambling and violation of the internal disciplinary rules of the BCCI, the Board had said.
The standard of proof required under a penal statute was much higher than the proof required for a disciplinary inquiry, it had said.
All the 36 accused, including Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila, were let off in the spot-fixing case by a Patiala House court in Delhi in July 2015.
The BCCI, however, had refused to alter its decision on disciplinary action even after the verdict.
Image: Shanthakumar Sreesanth during IPL-6 in 2013.