January 21, 2022 2:31:42 pm
Instances of match-fixing unearthed by the Bengaluru Police Crime Branch in 2019 in an investigation of alleged corruption involving cricket players and team managements in the Karnataka Premier League (KPL) T20 cricket tournament does not amount to cheating, the Karnataka High Court ruled while quashing a chargesheet against three players and a team official of the KPL.
A single-judge bench of Justice Sreenivas Harish Kumar ordered the quashing of a chargesheet filed against the former Karnataka cricket captain, C M Gautam, two players Abrar Kazi and Amit Mavi and the owner of the Belagavi Panthers team, Asfak Ali Thara.
The High Court ruled that “match fixing may indicate dishonesty, indiscipline and mental corruption of a player and for this purpose, the BCCI is the authority to initiate disciplinary action. If the bye-laws of the BCCI provide for initiation of disciplinary action against a player, such an action is permitted but, registration of an FIR on the ground that a crime punishable under Section 420 IPC has been committed, is not permitted.”
“Even if the entire charge sheet averments are taken to be true on their face value, they do not constitute an offence,” the court observed.
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The three players and the team official were arrested in 2019 over charges of fixing matches in the 2018 and 2019 editions of KPL – a local version of the IPL organised by the Karnataka State Cricket Association. The police had alleged that some KPL matches were fixed by players and team officials with the connivance of a board official.
The investigations against Gautam and the others began in 2019 after the crime branch obtained information during the probe of a separate match fixing case and registered an FIR at Cubbon Park police station.
The investigation was challenged on the grounds that an FIR could not have been registered on the basis of a confession statement given in another case and on the grounds that a crime under Section 420 of the IPC (of cheating) does not arise in fixing cases.
The High Court upheld the argument and ruled that betting on cricket matches do not amount to gaming as defined by the Karnataka Police Act to curb illegal gambling in the state.
“For invoking offence under Section 420 IPC, the essential ingredients to be present are deception, dishonest inducement of a person to deliver any property or to alter or destroy the whole or any part of a valuable security,” the High Court pointed out.
“It is true that if a player indulges in match fixing, a general feeling will arise that he has cheated the lovers of the game. But this general feeling does not give rise to an offence,” the judge stated.
The counsel for the crime branch police argued that the case amounted to cheating since “people buy tickets to watch a match” and they expect fair play.
The court also said that cricket being a sport cannot be brought under the ambit of gaming as defined by the Karnataka Police Act to curb betting or gambling.
“If Section 2(7) of Karnataka Police Act is seen, its explanation very clearly says that game of chance does not include any athletic game or sport. Cricket is a sport and therefore even if betting takes place, it cannot be brought within the ambit of definition of ‘gaming’ found in the Karnataka Police Act,” the High Court said.
In an instance of an alleged spot fixing, Asfak is alleged to have offered Gautam an amount of Rs 7.5 lakh to get a bowler to give more than 10 runs in an over during the 12th game of KPL on August 22, 2019, between the Tuskers and the Bengaluru Blasters.
Gautam allegedly set up a deal with off spinner Abrar Kazi during a practice session ahead of the game. Kazi was given an advance of Rs 2.5 lakh for the job. During the match, Kazi gave 11 runs – including two wides – when brought in to bowl his first over (the seventh of the game), the match records reveal.
In the finals of the KPL 2019 season, Gautam was allegedly asked by Thara to deliberately bat slowly during his innings. Gautam scored 29 of 37 balls and the Bellary Tuskers lost the game by eight runs while chasing a target of 152 set by the Hubli Tigers. According to the police, Gautam received Rs 15 lakh as payment from Thara for the slow batting in the final.
In two other games — game 19 of the 2019 season against Mysuru Warriors and game 21 of the 2018 season — Gautam was asked by his own team owner Arvind Reddy to under-perform. In game 19 of 2019, the Tuskers scored 240 but ended up losing by three wickets and in game 21 of the 2018 season, the match was tied at 151 before the Tuskers defeated the Shivamogga Lions by 12 runs in a super over.
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