Court quashes life ban on Azhar
Relieved, says former Indian captain; BCCI to wait before offering comment
Twelve years after being slapped with a life ban on match-fixing charges, former India cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin got relief from the Andhra Pradesh High Court which held the BCCI action as ‘illegal’ and ‘unsustainable’.
Setting aside the ban that was imposed in the aftermath of Hansie Cronje episode, a bench of justices Ashutosh Mohanta and Krishna Mohan Reddy allowed Azharuddin’s appeal challenging the order of a local court, which had upheld the decision of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
The cricket body had imposed the ban after a three-member committee had found him guilty of match-fixing charges. The three-member BCCI committee comprised of erstwhile president A C Muthaiah and two vice-presidents Kamal Morarka and KM Ram Prasad decided to impose life ban on Azharuddin.
Azharuddin, 49, hailed the verdict but ruled out taking any legal action in the matter. The Congress MP from Moradabad told reporters in Delhi that he was willing to work with the BCCI for development of cricket.
The BCCI reacted cautiously saying it will analyse the judgement before taking any decision. The bench agreed with Azharuddin’s counsel K Ramakant Reddy’s argument that there was no evidence against the former cricketer that he succumbed to any pressure while playing cricket.
The court also observed that BCCI had proceeded against Azharuddin unilaterally.
Reddy said the court rejected the BCCI’s contention that its actions cannot be challenged in the courts of law. He said his argument was that the ban was not based on the evidence and that the constitution of the enquiry committee itself was not correct.
Reacting to the judgement, Azharuddin told reporters in Delhi, “I can’t predict how BCCI will react but it’s totally up to them. As far as I am concerned, I am ready to work for the benefit of cricket and cricketers.”
Asked if he would take any legal action against BCCI, the former captain said, “I am not going to take any legal action against any authority and I don’t want to blame anybody for this also. It is about destiny and whatever had to happen has happened. I don’t have any complaints.
‘My conscience is clear’
“My conscience was always clear as I haven’t done anything wrong. I have represented my country and had played the game with utmost honesty. I never lost faith and was never a broken man. I didn’t blame anybody and was ready to fight it out in the court of law,” said one of India’s most successful captains. Apart from his parents, Azhar thanked former India captain Kapil Dev and BCCI president Late Raj Singh Dungarpur for their constant support during the darkest phase of his career.
“I thank Late Raj Singh Dungarpur for his constant support when he was alive. Also Kapil paaji has been very vocal in my support in all forums. So was former BCCI vice-president Kamal Morarka. I also thank all my fans who had stood by me in all these 12 years.”
His career ended at 99 Tests and Azhar doesn’t want to dwell on it. “May be I was destined to play 99 Test matches and that’s what the Almighty wanted. I would not like to dwell on the past and (want to) move on. I am an MP and would like to focus on the development of my constituency Moradabad.”
With Azhar not mulling any legal action, it is expected that the BCCI is likely to soften its stand in near future.
Azhar got a bit emotional when there was a reference of his late son Mohammed Ayazuddin who passed away in a tragic bike accident last year. “What I lost last year is scar that will remain with me forever. Nothing can change that. It was Almighty Allah’s wish but certainly myself and my elder son Abbas (Mohammed Asaduddin) are relieved today.”
* April 2000: Delhi police reveal they had a recording of a conversation between former South Africa skipper Hansie Cronje and Sanjay Chawla, alleged representative of an Indian betting syndicate, over match-fixing allegations.
* June 2000: Cronje releases a statement that reveals all his contact with bookmakers. In 1996 during the third Test in Kanpur, he was introduced to Mukesh Gupta by Mohammad Azharuddin.
* November 2000: Following Cronje’s revelations, BCCI forms three-member inquiry committee comprising of then Board President AC Muthiah and two vice-presidents Kamal Morarka and KM Ram Prasad.
* December 2000: The committee votes 2-1, implicating Azharuddin as guilty of match-fixing. Along with Azharuddin, his team-mates Ajay Jadeja, Nayan Mongia, Manoj Prabhakar and Ajay Sharma also found guilty of the charges. While Jadeja, Mongia and Prabhakar get away with lighter punishments, Azharuddin and Sharma are imposed with life bans.
* August 2003: A local court dismisses Azharuddin’s case against ban following which the former India skipper moves Andhra High Court.
* November 2012: After a long-drawn legal battle with the BCCI, the Andhra HC declares life ban on Azharuddin ‘illegal’ and the order of the local court ‘unsustainable’.