A Delhi court on Saturday exonerated former India cap S Sreesanth and 35 others in the high-profile IPL match-fixing case which had blown the lid off cricket's biggest scandal in recent times.
Other two prominent IPL players -- Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan -- were also discharged in the case in which six persons including underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and his aide Chhota Shakeel were declared proclaimed offenders.
The court order came just ten days after a Supreme Court-appointed panel suspended IPL franchises Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals for two years after their officials were found guilty of illegally betting on games in the same tournament where the alleged match-fixing by players took place.
In May 2013, Sreesanth and his two Rajasthan Royals teammates were arrested by Delhi Police on charges of spot fixing.
“All are discharged (from the case),” additional sessions judge Neena Bansal Krishna said while pronouncing the order, leading to loud cries of joy and relief from the accused and their families.
Cricketer Sreesanth, once considered a fast bowling find in a country short of speed options, broke down after the verdict, which came two years after the scandal first broke.
“My daughter will be so happy…I am very relieved, my innocence is proven,” a tearful Sreesanth told HT.
All the three cricketers had to spend time in jail during the course of investigation. Of the three, Sreesanth and Chavan are currently serving life bans imposed by the BCCI while Chandila’s hearing is still on.
The BCCI, however, later said the ban on the cricketers will continue.
“Any disciplinary proceeding or decision taken by the BCCI is independent to any criminal proceeding and has no bearing. The decisions of the BCCI based on its independent action, shall remain unaltered,” the board said in a statement.
After the verdict was pronounced, Delhi Police ACP Manishi Chandra said they will study the order and take a decision on moving the high court.
During the hearing in the afternoon, public prosecutor Rajiv Mohan threw a googly at the accused counsel by moving a last-minute plea to further investigate the case against Sreesanth and 41 others named in the case.
Mohan said the Lodha Commission, which was appointed by the apex court, had provided police with records of other investigative agencies which have thrown up “new evidence”.
Earlier this month, a panel headed by former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha recently suspended Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings for two years, along with the suspension the respective team owners, Raj Kundra and Gurunath Meiyappan for life for illegally betting on games.
Meiyappan is the son-in-law of International Cricket Council (ICC) president N Srinivasan.
(With agency inputs)
Read: After fixing acquittal, Sreesanth looks to make Team India return