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Nishad Pai Vaidya looks at the charges filed against the three cricketers and examines whether they can be convicted under the existing Indian laws.
Can the existing laws convict Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan for their alleged role in spot-fixing under the existing laws in India? The three cricketers at the centre of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2013 spot-fixing controversy have been charged with offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA).
Firstly, it is pertinent to note that there is no specific law or a penal provision in India that makes spot-fixing or match-fixing a punishable offence. Satish Maneshinde, an eminent criminal lawyer in Mumbai who recently defended Vindoo Dara Singh in the betting case, had something interesting to say about the whole matter when CricketCountry spoke to him in June. “There is no law which is capable of punishing matters such as spot-fixing, cricket betting or other betting activities connected to cricket,” he says.
The burning question is: Under what premise are the Delhi Police filing a chargesheet against the alleged perpetrators? Can they hope for a verdict in their favour given the charges filed?
The charges under section 420 and 120B of the IPC are general penal provisions and they apply to a plethora of cases. They are not case-specific and do not address a particular issue such as spot-fixing. It would be very tough to apply them in the spot-fixing controversy and getting the said acts under its purview. Section 420 punishes acts where a person “cheats and dishonestly induces” with regards to delivery of property. In this case, that would be the money that was allegedly received by the players. A conspiracy under Section 120B can be punishable if two or more people do any illegal act for which the punishment under the IPL is more than two years.
If the players have taken money for conceding a set number of runs in an over, whom are they exactly ‘cheating’? If they are guilty, then they have cheated the fans and their teams. The Rajasthan Royals had filed a complained of breach of trust, but that is not in the chargesheet, as the police could not find enough evidence. If the players have indulged in spot-fixing, they would certainly be guilty of bringing the game into disrepute. However, that may not amount to “cheating” under the Indian law. There may be an element of dishonesty, but they may not have deceived someone in “delivering property” to them. If the charge of cheating itself cannot be proven, then where does the question of conspiracy under Section 120B arise?
Let us now head to England, where the Pakistani trio of Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Aamer and Salman Butt was convicted for spot-fixing. In contrast to the Indian case, the three Pakistanis were charged with specific provisions in context of their acts and that led to their convictions. They were charged with conspiracy to accept corrupt payments and cheating. The charge of cheating was under the Gambling Act, 2005 which makes it an offence to improve one’s chances of winning at gambling. Even helping someone to cheat at gambling is a crime under Section 42 of the said statute. By accepting money to bowl no-balls, the players had entered into a conspiracy to cheat with Mazhar Majeed and had thereby improved his chances of winning at gambling.
In India, there is no such charge that has been invoked nor is there a law that has come into force. In fact, betting isn’t an offence under any penal law in India. The anti-gambling laws exist in some states but are weak and the punitive consequences are by no means severe. So, none of the anti-gambling laws brought into the picture in the spot-fixing case and it is strictly left to the charges under the IPC and MCOCA. Even the allegations under the stringent MCOCA come in because of the alleged involvement of gangsters.
So what can we expect once the case goes to court? When asked about the element of “cheating” in his client’s and the spot-fixing fixing case, Maneshinde said, “In no case can a charge of cheating be made out. The cops don’t know what to apply and what not to. Unless there is a new law, there is no law to punish the existing offences that are taking place.”
Keeping this in context, this writer recalls one his professor’s at the National Law University (Jodhpur) wise words, “If you file the wrong charges, you are certainly going to end up with an acquittal.”
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