The day may not be too far when a player found guilty of having indulged in match-fixing or any corruption of a similar extent on Indian soil ends up in jail. This after the Law Commission of India, chaired by Justice B S Chauhan, advocated that “match-fixing and sports fraud” be deemed as “criminal offences” and be dealt with “severe punishments”.
The recommendation is part of the Commission’s 276th report, which has been titled “Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting including in Cricket in India”.
The report in many ways is the Commission’s study, as asked for by the Supreme Court last year, into the Lodha committee’s recommendation for “betting to be legalized by law” in India and the “enactment” of a suitable Law for the same.
The Lodha committee had after all come into effect back in January 2015 to bring reforms into Indian cricket on the back of the IPL spot-fixing scandal that had opened a can of worms two years earlier. One of the key accused in that scandal was former India fast bowler and World Cup winner Sreesanth. Though handed a life ban by the BCCI, the criminal charges against Kerala pacer were “discharged” by a trial court in Delhi. Neither Sreesanth nor the other players accused of having indulged in corruption were handed any “severe punishments” owing to there not being a law in place in India to punish anyone for “fixing a match” or to constitute the act as a “crime”.
Back in 2013, then Law Minister Kapil Sibal, had in fact asked for a “separate law” to deal with the menace.
“I don’t think the Indian Penal Code has match-fixing and spot-fixing as an offence and I don’t think the ‘offence of cheating’ is something that adequately deals with issues of spot-fixing and match-fixing,” Sibal had said just days after Sreesanth & Co had been arrested and the spot-fixing scandal had come to the fore.
“I have requested my ministry to work on such a law. Once the broad parameters of the law are made out, I’ll hand it over to the sports ministry to take it to the cabinet and hopefully introduce it in the coming session of the parliament,” he’d added.
However, any such law is yet to come to effect.
Match-fixing is a serious crime in a number of other cricketing nations including England and Australia. In 2011, the Pakistani trio of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir had been handed prison sentences for their involvement in the spot-fixing episode during a Test match at Lord’s a year earlier.
They had been booked under section 42 of the United Kingdom’s Gambling Act 2005. Though the offence that been introduced to the Act was titled “cheating at gambling”, it covered and addressed every variety of match and spot fixing across all sports.
“A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable-(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, to a fine or to both, or (b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both,” section 42 states. In 2014, the UK government added further scrutiny into illegal practises in sport with an “Anti-Corruption Plan”.
And perhaps it’s time that a similar mandate is brought into place in India as well, especially with the Law Commission of India’s recommended to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad that “match-fixing and sports fraud should be specifically made criminal offences with severe punishments.”
Cashless, linked to Aadhar and PAN
*Exemption for gambling on “skill-centric” games like is the case with horse-racing.
* Betting operators need to have a license.
*Limits on transaction amounts.
* All transactions be made cashless and be linked to PAN and Aadhar cards
* Classification of gambling into “proper” (for higher income group) and “small” (for lower income group) with price caps on betting amounts
* Kids under the age of 18 and those not within the “purview of the Income Tax Act” be debarred
* Amendment to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy to encourage overseas investment in the casino and gaming industry