IPL spot-fixing row: Court comes down on police for invoking stringent MCOCA

The court, in its 25-page-order, said the “stringent provisions of MCOCA” are prone to be “misused” by the investigative agency © Getty Images

New Delhi: Jun 13, 2013

An Indian court has come down on police for invoking stringent MCOCA in the Indian Premier League (IPL) spot-fixing case saying the application of mind was a must in applying the law as it has “serious consequences” on the liberty of individuals.

“The police officer, who is of the rank of Additional Commissioner of Police, is required to apply his mind before invoking the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act and it should so reflect in the approval order,” Additional Sessions Judge Vinay Kumar Khanna said while granting bail to various accused, including S Sreesanth, in the case.

The court, in its 25-page-order, said the “stringent provisions of MCOCA” are prone to be “misused” by the investigative agency.

“The court hearing the bail applications has to guard against it (misuse) and has to perform a profound role of ‘gate keeping’ and as a guardian. The court cannot sit as a mute spectator and accept the story of prosecution as a ‘gospel truth’,” it said.

Delhi police had invoked MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999) against Sreesanth, his Rajasthan Royals teammates Ankeet Chavan, Ajit Chandila and other 25 accused.

It alleged Sreesanth and others were in contact with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel.

The court, however, said “none of the applicants (Sreesanth and others) was in touch with Salman, a bookie of Pakistan, or with Javed Chutani, Dawood or Chhota Shakeel.

“On deeply probing the material pointed out by the prosecution, prima facie, it cannot be observed that the applicants are members of organised crime syndicate.

“There is no satisfactorily material on record to indicate any nexus of the accused with the ‘underworld’ or any organised crime syndicate and on the basis of mere conjecture and surmises, no such link between the accused and the alleged hardcore criminals can be inferred.”

 While pulling up the police, the judge also said “in my view, such order (invoking MCOCA) requires to be a speaking order and should at least refer or specify the material on record which was considered by him. Approval under section 23(1)(a) MCOCA should not be a mere formality”.

“This court had to searchingly look for ‘material’ and whether it was sufficient or satisfactory or not, in view of the fact that approval given.. by the Joint Commissioner of Police, Special Cell, as the said order did not ‘outline’ any specific material for the court to see except vaguely narrating the ‘story’ of the prosecution.

While granting bail to the accused, the court said it was satisfied that “there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accused are not likely to be held ‘guilty’ for any offence under… MCOCA, on the basis of materials collected so far”.

It also said that prima facie, the acts attributed to the accused cannot also be brought even within the purview of section 420 (cheating) under section 409 (criminal breach of trust) of the IPC.

Delhi Police have so far arrested 28 persons, including Sreesanth, Chavan and Chandila in connection with the case.

Besides the 21 who were granted bail by the court till date, five others are now in judicial custody till June 18, including one of the alleged mega bookies, Ramesh Vyas who was arrested by the Mumbai police crime branch and was handed over to Delhi police after its sought his remand to unearth the “deep-rooted” conspiracy.

The court will hear the bail pleas of Chandila, Ashwani Aggarwal, Baburao Yadav, Deepak Kumar, Vyas and Bhatia on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Delhi police arrested one more bookie Firoz Ansari from Mumbai, who was brought here and sent to five days of police custody till June 17.

The judge in its order has also said that “it may not be out of place to note that after the emergence of faster means of communication like internet and mobile, there are now no international boundaries. Therefore, law has to recognize and respond to these newly emerging realities”.

“There is a need for a simple and unambiguous legal framework to deal with the problem of ‘fixing’ by players and other ‘insiders’ or officials and also to deal with the issue of widespread on-line betting and gambling,” the judge said.