In a setback to the Delhi Police Special Cell,a city court on Monday granted bail to cricketers S Sreesanth,Ankeet Chavan and 16 others in the IPL spot-fixing case,including Jiju Janardhanan and alleged mega bookie Ashwini Agarwal alias Tinku Mandi. The court also rapped the police for trying to misuse MCOCA.
The court of Additional Sessions Judge V K Khanna held that there was no sufficient material to show the nexus between the accused and underworld don Dawood Ibrahims organised crime syndicate the charge under which the police had invoked MCOCA against the accused.
The accused,who are set to be released on Tuesday,have been directed to surrender their passports and join the investigation as and when required. Ajit Chandila,the third cricketer arrested in the case,has not applied for bail so far.
Your FIR says secret information was received stating that the underworld was involved in match-fixing. Why then did you not impose MCOCA in the beginning? asked the judge,calling for the investigation records. Did the approving authority not apply its mind before allowing you to invoke MCOCA? Show me the material that was presented before him, he added.
What is the material on record to show the nexus of the accused,apart from the phone conversations? asked the judge,after the police failed to show case papers related to the investigation. How is the court expected to form any opinion if you dont show any material? Am I supposed to take whatever you say as gospel truth? said the judge.
Special public prosecutor Rajiv Mohan told the court the police were still in the process of investigating the issue,and had sent letters to telecom service providers to provide details of conversations between the players and bookies. Many of the conversations were through messaging and BBM services. We are trying to look into that, he said. Several missing links in the investigation have started getting clearer after the arrest of Ramesh Vyas,and confrontation between Vyas and Tinku Mandi is necessary to probe the role of the underworld in Indian cricket, he added.
But the court held that after probing deeper,it found no sufficient material to show nexus of the accused with organised crime syndicate, and it is satisfied that there are no reasonable grounds to believe they are guilty of the alleged offence. However,it added that the observations were tentative and would not affect the investigation or the outcome of the trial.
The court also held that there was no sufficient evidence to show culpability of the accused under MCOCA,and no prima facie case could be made out under sections 420,409 and 120B of IPC for cheating,breach of trust and criminal conspiracy,as alleged by the police. The police had said that by underperforming at the IPL,the players had violated the contract signed with the IPL,BCCI and their team.
The judges order was greeted with cheers,applause and whistles from the families and friends of the accused gathered in the courtroom. I was feeling bad that he was not able to spend any time with his newly-married bride. I was sure MCOCA should not have been invoked against these cricketers, said Ankeets father,Anil Chavan.
The three cricketers were arrested on May 16 on charges of spot-fixing. The Delhi Police had stated in the FIR that betting and match-fixing was being done in the IPL,and money was being sent through hawala channels to the Dawood Ibrahim-Chhota Shakeel crime syndicate in Dubai and Pakistan. Vyas and Tinku Mandi are alleged to control the betting racket in India,and are said to be in direct contact with the D company.