ISLAMABAD, May 22: The Supreme Court on Thursday remanded to a civil judge an appeal of former Test cricketer Saleem Malik against his life ban on playing cricket over alleged involvement in match-fixing, with a direction to settle the controversy in two months.

“Since it involves the career of a person, therefore we direct the civil judge to proceed day to day and decide the matter in a maximum of two months,” a three-member bench headed by Justice Nawaz Abbasi ordered after a brief hearing but ignored petitioner’s request to issue a stay against the ban imposed on him in 2001.

Though his counsel Raja Jehanzeb Akhtar described apex court’s order as a landmark verdict that would deter the Pakistan Cricket Board (PBC) from imposing such an extreme punishment in future, the cricketer himself expressed his disappointment in front of the reporters as he was expecting nothing short of lifting of the ban.

The bench, which had taken up the appeal of Saleem Malik, said it was setting aside the 2002 judgment of the Lahore High Court (LHC) of upholding the ban but will hand down its reasons later.

Saleem Malik was banned in 2001 from playing all cricket, holding any office and from involvement in any cricket playing activity on the recommendations of an inquiry into match-fixing conducted by Justice Malik Muhammd Qayyum, then a high court judge and currently Pakistan’s Attorney General.

The inquiry commission had also imposed a fine of one million when it took up the controversy after Australian players Shane Warne, Tim May and Mark Waugh alleged that Malik offered them bribes to under perform on Australia’s tour of Pakistan in 1994. His name was also featured in an Indian match-fixing inquiry which led to life bans on former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Sharma, and he was also mentioned by late South African captain Hansie Cronje in a separate probe.

Earlier, the cricketer appealed against the ban in the high court but since it was turned down, he later approached the Supreme Court in 2002.

Saleem Malik played 103 Tests and 263 one-day internationals for Pakistan during 1981 to 1999 and also led Pakistan in 12 Tests and 34 One-day Internationals in a career that was mired with allegations of match-fixing.

On Thursday the apex court expressed concern and inquired from both the petitioner as well as the defendants to suggest under which authority the PCB imposed such severe penalty.

Advocate Tafazzul Rizvi, representing the PCB, informed the court that the then Chief Executive of the PCB Majid Khan had referred the matter to a judicial inquiry amidst rampant allegations of match-fixing and betting as a result of which Pakistan was loosing matches left, right and centre.

He, however, explained that the PCB was just a tool as it implemented whatever the inquiry commission recommended, though conceding that the PCB rules did not provide penalty provision.

During the hearing, Senator Babar Awan also assisted the court by stating that Saleem Malik had remained out of field for the last ten years and emphasised that punishments should be imposed under some specific law.

Referring to the Islamic concept of awarding punishments, the senator referred to Ahadith of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and said the basic concept of the religion was to give reprieve while the right of appeal was an accepted norm rather an extension of judicial process.

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