- The Supreme Court in its judgement dated 22.01.2015 in Civil Appeal No. 4235/4236 of 2014 while discussing Question No.6 framed in Paragraph 19 observed that the role and conduct of Mr. Sundar Raman, Chief Operating Officer (COO), IPL gave rise to a serious suspicion about his involvement in the betting affairs of the team owners/officials as even after receiving the information about betting activities in connection with the IPL matches, he remained totally inert in the matter and no suitable action warranted under the circumstances was taken. The Supreme Court also took notice of the other allegation against him that he was having contacts with some bookies who were facilitating betting.
- The Probe Committee headed by Justice Mudgal recorded a finding in its report (where Sundar Raman is referred to as Individual No.12) that he had known a bookie whom he contacted eight times in one season of the IPL. The committee in its report observed as under:
“This individual knew a contact of a bookie and had contacted him eight times in one season. This individual admitted knowing the contact of the bookies but however claimed to be unaware of his connection with betting activities. This individual also accepted that he had received information about individual 1 and individual 11 taking part in betting activities but was informed by ICC-ACSU chief that this was not actionable information. This individual also accepted that this information was not conveyed to any other individual.”
- Since the Probe Committee had stopped short of either recording a specific finding regarding the complicity of Sundar Raman in the betting racket or giving any explicit justification for the finding that 350 calls were made between Sundar Raman and an alleged bookie by name Vindoo Dara Singh, the Supreme Court held that since Sundar Raman was holding a very important position as COO dealing with all aspects of the organization of the game and was the ‘spirit’ behind the entire exercise, he could not be allowed to go un-probed even if it meant further investigation by the Investigating Team provided to the Probe Committee or other means. In Para 110(iii) of the judgment, the present Committee was authorized to examine the role of Sundar Raman with or without further investigation and also authorized to impose suitable punishment on him if found guilty.
- Initially the committee had requested Sh. B.B. Mishra, IPS who had earlier conducted the Probe to conduct further investigation concerning the role of Sundar Raman, but in the meantime Sh.B.B. Mishra retired from service. On an application filed on behalf of this committee, the Supreme Court of India vide its order dated 17.04.2015 appointed Mr. Vivek Priyadarshi, Superintendent of Police, Anti Corruption Bureau-CBI, New Delhi to head the investigating team. Mr. Vivek Priyadarshi after conducting the further investigation submitted his report to the committee on 29.09.2015.
- Paragraphs 99 to 105 and para 110(iii) of the judgment of the Supreme Court referred to the allegations on which the investigation was being conducted by the previous Probe Committee and the Investigating Team. The relevant parts of the said paras which indicate the allegations against Shri Sundar Raman are extracted below: –
“99……..According to the allegation leveled against him, he was in constant touch with Mr. Vindoo Dara Singh evidenced by nearly 350 calls made thereto between them during the IPL…….
- The investigating team headed by Mr. B.B. Mishra summed up its conclusion about Mr. Sundar Raman’s involvement in its report dated 28th August, 2014 in which it stated:
The allegation emanated from a statement of Bindra. The verification so far indicates that Vindoo Dara Singh and Sundar Raman knew each other, but in the years 2012 and 2013, they have hardly made calls to each other. The CDR of Vindoo Dara Singh for the period 01.01.2013 to 20.05.2013 which is available doesn’t indicate any call made/received by him to/from Sundar Raman. Virk will have to be requested to join investigation and part with the information available with him.”
- In its final report dated on 1.11.2014 the Probe Committee recorded a finding that Mr. Sundar Raman, described as Individual 12 in that report, had known a bookie and had contacted him at eight different times in the IPL.
(Relevant extract of the report of the Probe Committee has been reproduced in Paragraph 2 above).
- The other allegations against Mr. Sundar Raman was that even though he had received information that a number of owners/team officials were involved in betting yet he had taken no action in the matter…..’
- The question then is whether Mr. Sundar Raman can be declared to be completely innocent or does his conduct and activities call for any other probe or investigation…..”
- At the commencement of investigation, the Investigating Team headed by Mr. Priyadarshi learnt through its reliable sources that Sh. N.S. Virk, an Ex-CBI Officer presently working in the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU), International Cricket Council (ICC), was having certain relevant information in his custody in his official capacity of being associated with Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU), International Cricket Council (ICC), which he was not likely to part with, immediately, or at all, if requisitioned from him. A search was conducted at the premises of Sh. N.S. Virk at No. F-30/C, First Floor, South Extension-I, New Delhi on 10.06.2015 in the presence of independent witnesses, an Assistant Computer Programmer and team members.
- In addition to the above allegations, during investigation information relating to fresh allegations were furnished by different sources having some knowledge of the working of BCCI/IPL. Different witnesses, including Sh. Aditya Verma who had filed the PIL No.55/2013 (Bombay High Court), Sh. I.S. Bindra etc., during interactions in the investigation indicated that evidence regarding the allegations against Shri Sundar Raman was available with Shri Lalit Modi, Ex-Chairman, IPL and now staying in UK. Sh. Lalit Modi was contacted and asked to provide the evidence, if any, regarding the investigation being carried out by the Investigating Team. Sh. Lalit Modi deputed Sh. Mahmood Abdi, Advocate and his attorney, as well as Shri Faisal Shariff to submit the documents to the Investigating Team. Certain other persons associated with Shri Lalit Modi also provided some other information. Primarily this information was against Sh. N. Srinivasan, Former President, BCCI and the role attributed to Sh. Sundar Raman was that he acted as per wishes of Sh. N. Srinivasan to benefit the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) team which was owned by India Cements Ltd., of which Sh. Srinivasan was the Managing Director.
- During Investigation, the Investigating Team examined 10 witnesses:
- Shri Niranjan Singh Virk working as Anti-Corruption Manager in Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU), International Cricket Council (ICC);
- Sh. Y.P. Singh working as General Manager, ICC-ACSU, Dubai;
- Shri I.S. Bindra, the then President of Punjab Cricket Association and Advisor to ICC, Dubai;
- Sh. Sanjay Jagdale, the then Hony. Jt. Secretary, BCCI;
- Shri Ravinder Nath Sawani, the then Advisor, ICC, ACSU, Dubai and the then Director, Anti-Corruption Unit, BCCI;
- Shri Virendra Randhawa @ Vindoo Dara Singh, Actor;
- Shri Rahul Sanghvi working as Team Manager of Mumbai Indians;
- Ms. Nupur Mehta, Model/Actress;
- Shri Faisal Shariff working as General Manager (Digital), KK Modi Group;
- Shri Ankit Baldi, the then Assistant to COO, IPL;
- Apart from the aforesaid witnesses, the Investigating Team also collected several documents from the BCCI, Delhi Police, Mumbai Police Crime Branch, Jaipur Police, Chennai Police Q-Branch, ICC-ACSU etc. Some documents were also seized from the residential premises of Sh. N.S.Virk, Anti-Corruption Manager, ICC-ACSU. During the said search, a forensic image of the hard disc of the laptop being used by Shri N.S.Virk was also prepared and during investigation certain documents were retrieved from the said forensic image of the hard disc.
- The documents seized from the residence of Sh. N.S. Virk revealed that he used to submit reports regarding suspected corruption in cricket to the ICC-ACSU. As per Intelligence Reports dated 26.07.2011. 13.03.2012, 06.09.2012, 26.05.2012 & 28.05.2012 submitted by Sh. N.S.Virk, Vindoo Dara Singh was having a nexus/contacts with several bookies and he was also in touch with Sundar Raman, CEO IPL during the last IPL in 2012 on his mobile cell phone no. 9987594155. Another bunch of papers revealed that Vindoo Dara Singh was in touch with some suspected bookies which were involved as fixers/corruptors in cricket matches during IPL. Similarly, Intelligence reports indicated that Vindoo Dara Singh was in touch with certain suspected bookies on his telephone no.9867126666 and with Sundar Raman.
- As per the Intelligence Report dated 23.03.2011 & 30.04.2011, Ms. Nupur Mehta was having contacts/nexus with cricket players and bookies. These bunch of papers also indicated that one Deepak Pandya was using Nupur Mehta to assist in establishing initial contacts with Indian players as well as players from some other countries. That Ms. Nupur Mehta was using mobile nos.8826238238, 9987821000 & 9560194094 on which she was in constant touch with certain suspicious bookies. These documents also reveal that Vindoo Dara Singh and Nupur Mehta alongwith other bookies stayed in the same hotels where the team were staying.
- A chart showing the call details/SMSs exchanged between Nupur Mehta and Sundar Raman was prepared to show that Nupur Mehta and Sundar Raman were in touch with each other 34 times through SMS/Telephone calls during the period 17.03.2010 to 01.01.2011. The duration of these calls was for a few seconds only except once or twice when they lasted a minute or so. Most of the time, the calls or SMS messages emanated from Nupur Mehta.
- A chart of telephone calls between Vindoo Dara Singh and Sundar Raman revealed that they had contacted each other 15 times. Vindoo Dara Singh made the contacts 8 times whereas Sundar Raman contacted Vindoo Dara Singh 7 times during the period between 14.4.2011 to 30.3.2012.
- During investigation, Sundar Raman was also examined by the Investigating Team twice (once in the beginning of the investigation and again upon closure of the field investigation) in order to know his explanation/likely defence on the issues. Sundar Raman admitted that he met Vindoo Dara Singh around 2010-2011, as a celebrity/television star. He stated that he did not know, till 2013, about the connection of Vindoo Dara Singh with some other bookies and his betting activities, till the criminal investigation was commenced against him. He did not recollect the exact context of his interaction with Vindoo Dara Singh. However, according to him this was generally for social interactions such as attending parties and seeking of match tickets etc. He also stated that no calls were made between Vindoo Dara Singh and him during IPL 2013.
- About his contact with Nupur Mehta, Sundar Raman took the plea that the details of the messages apparently relate to greetings on Christmas, New Year, Independence Day and his birthday (2nd September), and that a lot of people send messages on such occasions and that he did not have an exact recollection as to how he met with Nupur Mehta. She may have been introduced as event manager, celebrity, PR Manager in any social gathering.
- Regarding the allegations that he did not take any action or report the matter to the concerned authorities, in spite of being informed by Sh. Y.P. Singh, Director of ICC-ACSU during the meeting of the working committee on 14.05.2013 that a number of owners/team officials were involved in betting in IPL matches, Sundar Raman explained that Sh. Y.P. Singh had told him that the information was not actionable and therefore he did not take any steps or inform the concerned authorities of the BCCI about the same.
- The Investigating Team enlarged the scope of enquiry and framed 7 allegations against Sundar Raman. The allegations considered by the Investigating Team and the findings recorded thereon based on the oral and documentary evidence collected by it are as under:-
|1.||Sh. Sundar Raman was informed by the ICC-ACSU Chief about involvement of individual 1 and individual 2 in betting activities whereas he did not inform the same to the BCCI and thereby violated Operational Rules and the BCCI’s Anti Corruption Code;||36. Thus, it is very probable that Sundar Raman was indeed in touch with these suspect persons for wrong reasons. He also appears to be guilty of not sharing the information about corruption in IPL, purportedly furnished by Sh. Y.P. Singh orally/informally to him, with the BCCI authorities, whether the information was actionable or non-actionable. In a way, even sharing of some ‘non-actionable’, but reliable information with all the concerned stakeholders might have helped in preventing larger corruption issues in the game. Events since May 2013 regarding the corruption issues in the game of IPL have demonstrated so.|
37. But, in the aforesaid background, the evidence available on record, whether tested as ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, or even ‘preponderance of probability’, does not prove misconduct on part of Shri Sundar Raman, in as much as it is not certain as to whether ICC-ACSU had indeed communicated any actionable information to him with an intention that he would initiate action on such information communication itself.2.That Mr. Sundar Raman knew a contact of a bookie and had contacted him eight times in one season. This individual admitted knowing the contact of the bookies but however, claimed to be unaware of his connection with betting activities.40. Sh. I.S. Bindra has also stated that Sh. N.S. Virk had shown him CDRs of 10-15 pages containing telephonic contacts between Sh. Vindoo Dara Singh and Sh. Sundar Raman, however, he does not recollect as to how many calls took place between them as told by Sh. N.S. Virk. It may be recalled that in earlier enquiry proceedings it was claimed that there were 350 telephonic contacts between Sh. Vindoo Dara Singh and Sh. Sundar Raman. However, evidence collected during investigation proved contacts/calls between them on 15 occasions. Further, no telephonic contact between them during IPL 2013 has come to notice. As already mentioned, no evidence attributing the knowledge of Sh. Sundar Raman that Sh. Vindoo Dara Singh was a bookie or involved in cricket betting has surfaced during investigation.3.As per the intercepted conversation between bookies by Mumbai Police, Sh. Sundar Raman was giving tips to Mr. Gurunath Meiyappan which were further being shared by him (Sundar Raman) to the bookies.43. As such, the purported 100% prediction by Mr. Sundar Raman (which is however completely denied by Shri Sundar Raman) regarding win of KKR does not stand substantiated. Further, the conversations between two other persons, without any corroboration, or even without any overt action on the part of Mr. Sundar Raman, does not prove the allegations against him. As such, the allegations against Sh. Sundar Raman, regarding passing insider information to Sh. Gurunath Meiyappan (for purpose of his bets) does not stand substantiated, in my view.4.That Sh. Sundar Raman acted on instructions of Sh. N. Srinivasan for benefitting CSK by trying to block Mr. Kieron Pollard from joining Mumbai Indians in IPL 2010 who was purchased by Mumbai Indians in auction.45. As per the evidence of Sh. Rahul Sanghvi of Mumbai Indians, the auction was conducted in a transparent manner in which Mumbai Indians got the player as per the laid down regulations by IPL. Thus, the allegations that Sh. Sundar Raman acted at the instance of Sh. N. Srinivasan for blocking Mr. Kieron Pollard to join Mumbai Indians in IPL 2010, thereby benefitting CSK, does not get substantiated.5.To probe the contact/nexus of Shri Sundar Raman with Ms. Nupur Mehta, who in collusion with many bookies, was suspected to honey trap cricketers for match fixing/spot fixing, and see if Shri Sundar Raman was also involved in such suspicious activities.51. Thus, even though the messages exchanged between the two indicating his proximity with Ms. Nupur Mehta, give rise to a strong suspicion on the part of Sh. Sundar Raman but there is no firm evidence suggesting his nexus / collusion with Ms. Nupur Mehta for betting/match-fixing in cricket. The evidence does not indicate any knowledge on part of Sh. Sundar Raman regarding Ms. Nupur Mehta’s suspicious activities at the time when these SMSs were exchanged between the two.6.That Sh. Sundar Raman and Sh. N. Srinivasan were involved in nominating the 3rd umpires during IPL 2010 in spite of the fact that Sh. N. Srinivasan being franchise owner had conflict of interest in nominating such umpires.53. It has also come in the oral evidence of Sh. Sanjay Jagdale, the then Jt. Secretary, BCCI that 3rd umpires can hardly have any chance of influencing the results of a match as very few decisions are referred to 3rd umpires and even in those decisions, the TV recordings are available to millions of viewers. Thus, the allegations against Sh. Sundar Raman in the matter of nominating such 3rd umpires are not substantiated.7.That Sh. Sundar Raman, at the behest of Sh. N. Srinivasan, was instrumental in backdating the termination of Mr. Chamara Kapugedera’s contract with Chennai Super Kings, so that CSK could bid for Mr. Andrew Flintoff by enhancing its purse upto USD 2 million.58. On being asked about clarification regarding the allegations, Shri Sundar Raman has clarified that these emails show that many other franchisees were also in the middle of the player buy-outs and re-signing, and this was a standard practice ahead of the players’ auctions. IMG maintains the log of each franchisee details, which is clearly stated in IMG’s emails and that all player buy-outs and re-signings have been done as per the regulations. As regards the letter dated 05.01.2009 of India Cements Ltd. he stated that he is neither the sender nor the addressee, and as such he cannot offer any comments on the allegations.
59. The defence of Shri Sundar Raman appeared to be plausible on perusal of the copies of emails and letter provided by Shri Mehmood Abdi. The task relating to auctions was primarily assigned to IMG, a firm doing such work globally for other leagues as well. The emails/letters also show that the correspondence being made on the part of Chairman, IPL, and COO, IPL was only executing the work on his behalf.
60. No prima facie substance was found in this allegation accordingly. As such detailed investigation on this allegation was not considered necessary.
- In Paragraph no.37 of his Report, Mr. Vivek Priyadarshi exonerated Sundar Raman of Allegation No. 1 by concluding that the evidence available on record, whether tested as ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, or even preponderance of probability’, did not prove any misconduct on the part of Sundar Raman, in as much as it was not certain whether ICC-ACSU had communicated any actionable information to him with the intention that he should initiate action on such information. However, there was also an observation at Paragraph 36 of the said report of Mr.Priyadarshi that Sundar Raman was in touch with Nupur Mehta and Vindoo Dara Singh for the wrong reasons and appeared to be guilty of not sharing the information about corruption in IPL, purportedly furnished by Sh. Y.P. Singh orally/informally to him with the BCCI authorities which might have helped in preventing the larger corruption issues in the game, which stood demonstrated in May, 2013 (IPL Season of 2013),
- Further, under Allegation No.5, in spite of recording a finding that the messages exchanged between Sundar Raman and Nupur Mehta indicated his proximity with Nupur Mehta which gave rise to a strong suspicion, the Investigating Officer exonerated him on the ground that evidence was absent indicating his knowledge regarding Nupur Mehta’s suspicious activities at the time when these SMS / Telephone calls were exchanged.
- This Committee in order to satisfy itself about the correctness of the conclusion arrived at by the Investigating Team issued a notice to Sundar Raman to appear before it. In the meanwhile, Sundar Raman had tendered his resignation from the IPL to the BCCI on 05.10.2015 which was accepted w.e.f. 05.11.2015.
- In response to the notice issued, Sundar Raman appeared before the Committee on 14.11.2015. To the question as to why he did not take any action, though he had received information that a number of owners/team officials were indulging in betting, he offered the following explanation:-
(i) Mr. Y.P. Singh (General Manager, ICC-ACSU, Dubai) had informed him that during one of the IPL matches in 2013 season (03.04.2013 to 26.05.2013) some owners/team officials were indulging in betting; that he has responded by stating that the matter was serious and what action is being taken; and that Mr. Y.P. Singh told him that the information was mere hearsay and not actionable.
(ii) That BCCI had entered into an agreement with ICC for availing anit-corruption services and for enforcement of the BCCI Anti-Corruption Code for participants. Under the said agreement, it was the responsibility of ICC-ACSU to collect and maintain information/intelligence relating to corruption in cricket; and whenever there was any significant matter or occurrence in relation to corruption in cricket, ICC was required to notify BCCI in writing, as soon as reasonably practical.
(iii) As the information given was vague and fell within the ambit of the services of ICC-ACSU and as Mr. Y.P. Singh who gave him the information during a discussion, also informed him that the information was not actionable, he assumed that if this is something reportable, ICC-ACSU would do it and there was no need for him to take any action or bring it to the notice of the Governing Council.
(iv) The subsequent events, in retrospect, show that his decision was not correct, and that he should have informed the IPL Governing Council about what Mr. Y.P. Singh had informed him.
(v) The omission to inform the IPL Governing Council was an error of judgment for deciding courses of action in his capacity as COO of IPL and it was not due to any ulterior motive. He stated that he tried to serve IPL to the best of his capacity with integrity and commitment.
(vi) In response to the allegations that he had contacts with Nupur Mehta, who was involved in suspicious activities relating to betting, he submitted that his contact with Nupur Mehta was of a superficial nature and most of the messages exchanged between them were initiated by Nupur Mehta primarily on the days like Christmas Day, New year day, Independence Day and his Birthday and that the duration of calls was for few seconds only and that he did not have any knowledge about the activities of Nupur Mehta at the relevant time.
- We have carefully reappraised the entire evidence and the material collected in the course of investigation. In the absence of any cogent evidence, the inferences drawn / findings recorded by the Investigating Team seem to us to be probable. We therefore conclude that Allegation Nos. 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 are not proved.
- The question as to whether Sundar Raman omitted to inform the IPL Governing Council has been admitted by him albeit in hindsight. It does not seem to us, on the basis of investigation and material before us that Sundar Raman’s omission was with any ulterior or oblique motive or intended to cover or protect someone or was part of any corrupt activity. However, having regard to the duties and responsibilities of Sundar Raman as COO, his omission to report to the IPL Governing Council was a wrong decision and not expected of a COO of IPL. We have no material to infer that the said decision was motivated. The subsequent events show that had Sundar Raman shared the information with the concerned stakeholders, it might have helped in preventing subsequent events which came to light in May 2013, but, merely because the subsequent events demonstrated that the omission had severe repercussions, it cannot be said or assumed that this omission on his part was an act of corruption or an act to protect someone or cover corruption.
- As regards Allegation No.5 that Sundar Raman had contact/nexus with Ms. Nupur Mehta, we find that Nupur Mehta/Sundar Raman had contacted each other through SMS/telephone calls on 11 occasions during the period from 01.01.2010 to 09.03.2011, although the actual number of attempts was 34. Most of these messages were initiated by Ms. Nupur Mehta on Christmas, New Year, Independence Day and birthday of Sundar Raman. During IPL 2010 (12.03.2010 to 25.04.2010), one SMS was received by Sundar Raman on 17.03.2010, another one on 27.03.2010 and a further 6 SMS exchanges thereafter. The SMS/Telephone calls exchanged between them do indicate the proximity between them but nothing beyond it. There is no evidence on record to indicate that Sundar Raman had knowledge about the suspicious activities of Nupur Mehta at the relevant time. Although having regard to the position Sh. Sundar Raman was holding in the IPL, he ought to have shown better discretion in keeping in touch with an unknown person but having said that we find that there is nothing on record other than few calls of a very short duration to indicate that Sundar Raman had knowledge of the suspicious activities of Nupur Mehta at the relevant time. In the absence of any firm evidence it cannot reasonably be inferred that exchanges between them was for betting or any other corrupt motive. On the basis of evidence collected during investigation it is difficult to conclude that Sundar Raman was also involved in the suspicious activities of Nupur Mehta.
- One allegation made against Sundar Raman before the Probe Committee headed by Mr.Justice Mudgal was that there were 350 telephone contacts between Sundar Raman and Vindoo Dara Singh. However, evidence revealed by the investigating team showed Calls/SMS between them was on 15 occasions only. There were no telephone calls between them during IPL 2013. There is no evidence on record to show that Sundar Raman had the knowledge of Vindoo Dara Singh being a bookie or indulging in betting. The statement of Sh. I.S. Bindra and the documents seized from the residents of Sh. N.S. Virk, ACSU-ICC also do not indicate any positive evidence to show that Sundar Raman had the knowledge that Vindoo Dara Singh was a bookie or involved in cricket betting. In the absence of any positive evidence to that effect, the allegations leveled against him fail.
- On a close and careful independent look at the evidence and material collected by the Investigating Team, the Committee is of clear opinion that neither Allegation Nos.1 and 5 nor Allegation Nos.2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 stand substantiated justifying any action against Sundar Raman. His direct or indirect involvement in any betting or otherwise wrongful activities has not been establishment by any cogent evidence.
Justice R.V. Raveendran Justice Ashok Bhan Justice R.M. Lodha
Former Judge, Supreme Court Former Judge, Supreme Court Former Chief Justice of India
[MEMBER] [MEMBER] [CHAIRMAN]
Image Source: http://im.rediff.com/cricket/2015/jul/14lodha.jpg
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