Only about two years ago, in May and June 2013, the Delhi police arrested three cricket players and drew up charges against them of spot fixing in the IPL T20 matches and links with bookies. They also arrested 34 others (there were several alleged bookies among them) on related charges of betting and match-fixing. Not content with this, the Delhi police had also declared initially that they had ambitions of charging Dawood Ibrahim too in the same case. The outcome was that Sreesanth, Ajit Chandala and Ankit Chavan were promptly banned by the BCCI from playing in any of the IPL matches. These players have not been able to come anywhere near a cricket pitch ever since. The suffered great humiliation and ignominy and spent traumatic days in Tihar Jail. The police had charged all the accused under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act. Under this law, the accused can be denied bail for nearly a year and “confessions” in police custody become admissible in court. The general impression now is that the police used the Maharashtra law in the case to cover up idequacies in their investigations. However, on July 25, 2015, Additiol Sessions Judge Nee Bansal Krish of Delhi announced “all are discharged” and dropped the spot-fixing and betting charges against Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankit Chavan , as well as the 34 other accused, saying that the Delhi police had failed to make out a case. It is important to see the difference between the players having been acquitted and all the 37 accused being discharged. Even on June 10, 2013, the judge had said, “There is prima facie no sufficient evidence... to establish their nexus with organized crime syndicate, as claimed by police.” The most shocking part of the entire episode is that this high profile case of the Delhi police did not even reach the trial stage. The hearing of July 25, was about whether to frame charges, and the judge decided that the evidence was insufficient even to merit a trial. The implication of this is that the 37 accused, who included several alleged bookies and were all on bail, were discharged rather than acquitted. It would have been possible for them to have been acquitted or convicted only after a full-fledged trial. It is significant that the Delhi police were uble to establish that there had been any phone calls between Sreesanth and any bookie or crime syndicate member. Likewise, there was no evidence of Ajit Chandila having been involved in any illegal activity. There was no evidence that Ankit Chavan took money or did not play to the best of his ability. By the look of things now, the three cricket players had been punished without any real evidence of their having indulged in spot-fixing or betting activities. Likewise, the charges of the other 34 accused have not been substantiated either. It is indeed extremely unfortute that our young sportsmen should have been subjected to harsh punishment by the BCCI, even though the cases against them have had to be dismissed two years later for lack of adequate evidence. This is highly irresponsible conduct on the part of the police in India’s capital. One shudders to think of what one might expect in the far flung corners of the country.
Sreesanth is very keen to get back to playing cricket. However, it may be a long time before this happens. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has decided to stick to its ban on the three Rajasthan Royals players for the time being, on the ground that its discipliry proceedings are “independent of any crimil proceeding”. This is a stand that may be very difficult to sustain for two reasons. In the first place, there may be situations where seeking to be independent of crimil proceedings could lead to contempt of court. Secondly, the BCCI is itself steeped in corrupt practices. Its favourite modus operandi to get out of sticky situations is huge pay-offs. Not many people will quibble over moral principles when the fees offered for any service to the BCCI is so substantial.