Context: Recently, the Mohali police arrested an alleged match-fixer and charged with cheating under Section 420 of the IPC(Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property).
Reasons for arrest for cheating rather than match-fixing:
- Match-fixing is not an independent offence in India and there are no laws covering it.
- After every match-fixing scandal, investigators, legislators and lawyers have called for reforms, arguing that the absence of laws makes it difficult for them to incriminate someone for match-fixing.
- Additionally, there is little scope for them to go after those who orchestrate match-fixing, other than the players.
Precedence of punishment:
- Those punishments were handed out by the cricket board under its anti-corruption rules and not by law enforcement. These punishments were later reduced or overturned by courts.
- There have been two high-profile match-fixing scandals involving Indian cricketers in the last two decades:
- The 2000 scam:The CBI tried to book accused under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 as the player was a public servant, employed by the State Bank of India (the Act is not applicable to those in the private sector).
- But it was pointed out that the alleged act of corruption was not committed while he was on duty.
- The 2013 Indian Premier League spot-fixing controversy: The Mumbai Police charged accused under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), 1999.
- Here, too, a Delhi court let the accused off for lack of evidence.
- In both cases, investigators had to fall back on other sections of the law to hold them guilty. In both cases, they were unsuccessful.
CBI’s definition of match-fixing:
In its report on the 2000 scandal, the CBI defined match fixing as:
- Instances where an individual player or group of players received money individually/collectively to underperform;
- Instances where a player placed bets in matches in which he played that would naturally undermine his performance;
- Instances where players passed on information to a betting syndicate about team composition, probable result, pitch conditions, weather, etc.;
- Instances where groundsmen were given money to prepare a pitch in a way that suited the betting syndicates; and
- Instances of current and ex-players being used by bookies to gain access to Indian and foreign players to influence their performances for a monetary consideration.
Need for a match-fixing law:
- A study by the International Olympic Committee, Interpol and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime noted: “Match-fixing law would demonstrate that sporting manipulation is not a ‘simple’ breach of sporting rules, but also an offence against the public in a broader sense.”
- Recently, Vidhi Legal and the Sport Law and Policy Centre jointly published a paper - Fixing It: Tackling Match Manipulation.
- The paper observed that in the 2000 match-fixing scandal, the CBI was unable to register a case against the accused, as it was unable to establish that these cricketers had clearly violated any existing penal legislation in India.
- Non-enforcement agency: The BCCI’s Anti-Corruption Unit can request the alleged player to come for questioning. If he does not come, little can be done.
Attempts to make laws against match-fixing:
- Prevention of Sporting Fraud Bill: In 2013, the Sports Ministry drafted the Prevention of Sporting Fraud Bill, which suggested a jail term for offenders. That Bill has been lapsed.
- Two Private Member’s Bills: The National Sports Ethics Commission Bill in 2016 and the Sports (Online Gaming and Prevention of Fraud) Bill – in 2018. Neither has been debated yet.
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