In one of the harshest punishments to a chess player, the All India Chess Federation banned Umakant Sharma of Southern Railway for 10 years for cheating during a FIDE rating tournament in Delhi early this month.
The AICF at its central council meeting in Chennai on Tuesday decided to ban Umakant, the second seed at the Air Marshal Subroto tournament, for being caught with a bluetooth device hidden in his cap.
AICF treasurer and Delhi Chess Association president Bharat Singh Chauhan, who exhibited the cap and device at the meeting, said the decision was taken after a long deliberation on the pros and cons of the nature of offence and the punishment, besides the complete record of the player, who climbed from ELO ratings 1989 to around 2480 in only the last six months.
"The matter was discussed at length at the meeting and it was decided that such acts were not welcome in chess," Chauhan said.
"The council also checked Umakant's complete record, including his games and even financial background and was surprised to learn that he had expensive mobile set despite being unemployed," he said.
"It is only recently that he got a job with the Southern Railways in Chennai," he said.
"His games were also studied and he was not an extraordinary player who could have naturally gained heavily in ratings in such short duration," he said.
Asked why Umakant was imposed on such a harsh ban because even bigger offences like that of doping and match-fixing did not invite such a long suspension, Chauhan said: "in all those matters big people and big money was involved and that may be the reason why things were different. But in our sport, such a thing is absolutely unwelcome," he said.
AICF secretary D V Sunder also firmly justified the decision.
"We wanted to be frank and send a stern message to all the players. It is like cheating in exams," he said.
"Other players were also unhappy with Umakant and agitating but we decided to first see the evidence and then take decision. We should have taken the decision immediately after he was caught," he said.
Sunder said there is no need to hear Umakant because many things are inexplicable like: "why should he hide the bluetooth in his monkey cap and then stitch it?"
"For us the tournament is very important as it's on the name of the such respected person. We cannot tolerate such an offence," he said.
AICF joint secretary Neeraj Mishra of Jharkhand, the state where Umakant hails from, said the player will not coming out in his defence but maintains that he never used the electronic device to influence his results.
"It is an unfortunate decision for chess. We should learn a lesson from it," he said.
The AICF also decided to form a committee under the chairmanship of its vice-president R M Dongre to look into the complaint by Chess Players Association of India President GM Dibyendu Barua that International Master D P Singh was also suspicious of receiving external help during his games.
The Federation also decided to limit the number of donor entries from India in World and Asian age group championships, making it a merit-based system.
About over aged players, AICF decided that all complaints and protests in National Championships should be lodged latest at the end of the third round.
The National 'B' for 2007 and 2008 have been allotted to Tamil Nadu and Goa respectively.