The inference that Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila, now cleared of spot-fixing allegations by a Delhi trial court, can return to professional cricket appears invalid because of the separate lines of inquiry and jurisdiction adopted by the court and the BCCI.
According to a BCCI anti-corruption official, the standards of proof required by the board were different from the ones needed by the court to press charges. “There is a difference between what the police does and what we do – it is as different as a departmental enquiry and a judicial criminal trial. There is no law with regards to match-fixing in the Indian Penal Code or any of the local laws,” the official told ESPNcricinfo.
The three players were acquitted by the court due to insufficient evidence under the MCOCA act, a special law passed by the Maharashtra state government to tackle organised crime syndicates and terrorism. But the BCCI’s investigation in 2013, handled by Ravi Sawani, the former head of ICC’s anti-corruption unit, only needed to focus on the conduct of the players, and not their alleged connections to organised crime syndicates. The BCCI anti-corruption official reaffirmed that difference.
“Within that limited requirement of proving whether these players were in touch with the bookies, whether they had done any particular act which amounted to spot-fixing, there was sufficient evidence available to prove the offence of match-fixing or spot-fixing,” the official said.
Sawani’s line of enquiry was to ascertain whether any monetary transactions took place, whether any conversations took place between the players and bookies or their agents and even if any specific act to that effect was performed. “Under the anti-corruption code even if an act has not been done, but if you had agreed to do an act, that by itself was an offence,” the official said. “Even if you had agreed and done nothing – that is an offence. Even if you did not receive the money, that is an offence. And even if you have not agreed but somebody had made an approach to you and not reporting that is an offence.”
The same evidence that was presented before the Delhi court was made available to Sawani, who acted differently because he noted that the three players were in breach of Article 2.1.1 of BCCI’s anti-corruption code. Article 2.1.1 relates specifically to match-fixing and spot-fixing and reads: “Fixing or contriving in any way or otherwise influencing improperly, or being a party to any effort to fix or contrive in any way or otherwise influence improperly, the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of any Match or Event.”
According to the official, Sawani had relied primarily on the same evidence utilised by the Delhi Police in bringing charges against players and alleged bookies, but the big difference was he had signed statements. “The audio recording that Delhi Police had done between players to certain other people and certain other people further to bookies, all those audio recordings and the transcripts were there. When these players were interviewed, they have signed statements.”
The evidence gathered was conclusive and established the players’ roles, the official claimed. From that evidence, and from the players’ statement to Sawani himself, it was concluded that there was sufficient evidence to prove the offence of spot-fixing.
In his final report submitted to the BCCI in September 2013, Sawani laid several charges against the players for various offences.
Sreesanth, Chavan and Chandila were found guilty of match-fixing, seeking or offering a bribe as a reward for match-fixing, underperforming for a reward, ensuring the occurrence of an event during a match, knowing it is the subject of a bet, receiving payment or gift for the possibility of bringing cricket into disrepute, failing to report an approach by bookmakers to fix a match to the BCCI anti-corruption unit. A separate charge of soliciting other players for match-fixing in the IPL was also laid against Chandila.
Subsequently, the BCCI disciplinary panel slapped life bans on Sreesanth and Chavan, having found them guilty. A verdict against Chandila is still pending as he failed to face the panel due to personal reasons. (Courtesy Cricinfo)