Former Maharashtra Cricket Association president and senior lawyer Abhay Apte explained the criminal aspect of match-fixing.
What crime does a player commit when he fixes a cricket game?
Without a specific law, the crime here is largely based on interpretation. If it is covered under the general criminal law of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which is cheating, the point of intention becomes very difficult. The Law Commission has strongly recommended that there should be a separately law for match-fixing and sports fraud.
That’s the need of the hour, because without a specific law it’s very difficult to cover the cases successfully. When the IPC was made in 1860, this situation didn’t arise.
Which Section of the IPC is breached, when fixing happens?
Prima facie it should be the Section 420, which deals with cheating and dishonesty.
If it is cheating, who has the accused cheated?
The spectators. In a bigger context, it can be team owners and all the stakeholders of the game. Because, nobody comes to see a fixed match. Honesty is the very essence of sport. Also, sportsmanship. If you do something in a predetermined way to defraud someone and make wrongful gain, then that’s cheating.
Even with a specific law, how can you prove before the court that somebody has deliberately batted slowly, or somebody has intentionally bowled a no-ball?
Of course the entire conspiracy has to be brought on record. Just by saying that somebody batted slowly or somebody gave away three runs in three balls, won’t be enough. The intention has to come on record that there was a planning, there was a decision, there was a betting, what has been betted — all those things will have to come. The complete chain of circumstances should show the conspiracy. Mere unpredictable performance per se cannot be called match-fixing.
Will a specific law with severe punishments help curb the menace?
Yes, it will. I give you an example; earlier cheque bounce was also covered under cheating. But there also, judging the point of intention was difficult. That’s why a specific law was needed and accordingly the Negotiable Instruments Act was amended. Under Chapter 17, new provisions have come. So now it has become very deterrent and speedy.