S Sreesanth in 2013, sometime after his arrest in the case that shook the cricketing world © PTI
S Sreesanth in 2013, sometime after his arrest in the case that shook the cricketing world © PTI

New Delhi: Delhi High Court sought the responses of suspended cricketers S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan and 33 others on a plea by the city police challenging their discharge by a trial court in the Indian Premier League 2013 spot-fixing and betting scandal case. Justice Siddharth Mridul issued notice to all the 36 respondents who were given a clean chit by the trial court on July 25 and sought their replies by December 16, the next date of hearing. The high court also called for the trial court records on the appeal filed by Delhi Police which had moved the appeal on September 2.  The trial court’s verdict had said the investigators had failed to gather “all necessary ingredients to establish a prima facie case” under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). ALSO READ: Delhi police to appeal against lower court’s verdict of clearing Sreesanth and others

The trial court had dropped all charges against the 36 accused, including some bookies, holding that the Special Cell of Delhi Police had been unable to establish any “nexus” or link between them and crime syndicate allegedly run by fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and his close aide Chhota Shakeel, who, along with one Sandeep, were declared proclaimed offenders in the case. Three other accused — Javed Chutani, Salman and Ehtesham — are Pakistani nationals and the police could not lay their hands on them.

Assailing the verdict, the appeal has contended that the trial court order was unsustainable. The Delhi Police has argued that the logic and conclusions put forth for discharging the accused was not correct. It has further contended that the trial court had erred completely in interpreting the provisions of MCOCA dealing with crime syndicates and the manner in which the issue of framing of charges had been discussed needed to be looked at again. ALSO READ — IPL 2013 spot-fixing case: Delhi Police approach High Court to challenge clearance of charges

Besides the three cricketers who were part of the IPL team Rajasthan Royals and banned for life for their alleged involvement in crime, several bookies were among 36 named in the 6,000-page charge sheet.

In the charge sheet, the Delhi police had claimed to have unearthed sufficient evidence to prosecute them for the offence punishable under section 120B (conspiracy) read with 419 (cheating by personation), 420 (cheating) of IPC, besides those relating to MCOCA.

The trial court had disagreed with the police on invoking MCOCA against the accused and said, “the best case could have been under Public Gambling Act, but that also is not prima facie established from the evidence placed on record by prosecution.” “The offence of cheating is also not made out prima facie, even if the entire evidence of prosecution is admitted without formal proof,” the trial court had added.