news Sunday, July 26, 2015 - 05:30
On Saturday evening, the Patiala House court Delhi exonerated cricketers S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing case. The decision led to raised eyebrows as the BCCI had already deemed the tainted cricketers guilty. The BCCI has maintained that the ban will remain as of now.  Thirty-three other accused were reportedly also let off in the case which had been filed by the Delhi Police’s Special Cell. The charges against the trio were those of criminal conspiracy, cheating by impersonation under IPC, and of offences under the infamous Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). So how is it that the court has dropped charges, but BCCI can still deem them guilty? Absence of a law helped cricketers: A piece in Bangalore Mirror quotes Ravi Sawani, who had investigated the spot-fixing case for the BCCI.   Sawani says that the BCCI recognizes match-fixing as an offence in its Code of Conduct, but the Indian law does not. “I can tell you that there was sufficient evidence that was considered by the disciplinary committee and based on that they came to a conclusion,” Sawani told the newspaper. He mentions that while both the Justice Mudgal and the Justice Lodha committees had gone through his investigation “with a finetooth comb”, the problem for the Delhi Police was filing the charge sheet, as there were no specific provisions in the law. When the case of former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin had come up more than a decade ago, the SC had asked for the views of three retired judges on the matter. “They said there can't be a sustainable charge in a case of match-fixing,” he said. Sawani added that a recommendation was then made to the government to enact a law against match-fixing but “It has not happened so far.” Why did the charges not stick? With regard to the charges filed, Sawani says that the Delhi Police filed a case under Section 420 (cheating) which was fine if the evidence was solid. “In 420, the evidence has to be technically strong, which was not the case here,” he said. In the case of Chavan, the court said that “underperforming” does not “amount to cheating”. The court observed that Chandila had not underperformed despite taking Rs 20 lakhs. It added that even if the money was returned (as claimed by Chandila) “there cannot be any inference drawn that this was a part of hawala transaction.” The MCOCA Another charge was filed under MCOCA, and a Firstpost piece from 2013 mentions that the application of the act “reeks of misuse”. It adds by saying that the MCOCA is a draconian law which makes the job for the police easier, mentioning that it is used when nothing else works. The court said that “The offence in relation to which MCOCA is sought to be invoked, pertains to betting and match-fixing, which… does not fit in any penal statute.” “All the necessary ingredients to establish a prima facie case under the provisions of MCOCA is not made out,” it said. The court added that “Even if entire evidence of prosecution is accepted”, connections with Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel cannot be established. Nature of statements made: Sawani mentions another reason why the cricketers were let off the hook. He says that he had convinced the BCCI to take action on the basis of statements made by the cricketers which could not have been under any kind of pressure. “In departmental inquires, the statements hold weight because there is no question of duress,” he said, adding that they do not “employ any methods of torture”. The law in India on the other hand does not allow statements made to the police to be admissible as “the statement may have been extracted under duress,” he says, explaining why the court ruled out the statements given to the police.