A day after a court granted bail to Sanjeev Chawla, key accused in the 2000 match-fixing scandal involving late South Africa captain Hansie Cronje, the police moved the Delhi High Court seeking a stay on the order.
Delhi Police’s appeal against the trial court’s April 30 order came up for hearing before Justice Asha Menon on Saturday, who after listening to arguments from both sides, reserved the order.
The trial court had ordered Chawla’s release on furnishing a personal bond of Rs two lakh with two sureties.
Justice Menon, however, clarified that “in case the accused (Chawla) submits his bail bond and surety bonds, the Duty MM (Metropolitan Magistrate) will ensure that an undertaking is also simultaneously filed separately by the accused and sureties to the effect that they will be bound by the decision of this court.”
Senior counsel Vikas Pahwa and advocate Jagjit Nandal told the court that the accused has been in judicial custody since February 12 and spent 76 days in jail.
The Investigative Officer (IO) in the case has admitted that among the other accused, Cronje is dead, three others are on bail while one – Manmohan Khattar – is absconding.
Police sought the cancellation of the bail order arguing that Chawla is a British national and it took 20 years to bring him to India and there was the risk of the accused fleeing from justice.
The police, in its plea filed through prosecutor Kewal Singh Ahuja, said that the guidelines with respect to COVID-19 and release of undertrial prisoners are not applicable to Chawla in light of his alleged role in match-fixing as he was the main conduit in the conspiracy.
Pahwa opposed the police’s plea saying Chawla never applied for bail in 60 days which showed he was cooperating with the prosecuting agency. He added that the trial has been pending for seven years but charges have not been framed and it will take considerable time to complete the trial.
The trial court in its April 30 bail order observed, “…in view of the fact that no cricket match was thrown/lost pursuant to alleged match-fixing, the applicant/accused Sanjeev Kumar Chawla is ordered to be released on bail…”
It, however, directed Chawla to give his voice sample and hand writing specimen to the IO. It also directed that the accused will not leave India without permission of the court.
As per the police, Chawla and Cronje were named by the Crime Branch in the chargesheet filed on July 23, 2013 for ‘fixing matches played between India and South Africa from February 16, 2000 to March 20, 2000 in India’.
The next date of hearing is May 14.
The scandal broke in April 2000 when Delhi Police intercepted a conversation between Chawla and Cronje, in which it was learnt that the latter had accepted money to lose matches. Chawla has also been accused of offering money to two England players in August 1999.