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Match Fixing as a Crime

Posted on Sep 27, 2005

Posted By Sumit Agrawal

Current is the age of corruption. It is sarvatra from lowest rung of the service to the higher judiciary and in the governance. Unfortunately, it seems to have entered into the field of sports too. Recently, corruption and match fixing charges were thrown up in Indian Cricket by Abhijeet Kale, a Maharashtra Player. It was only about few years back, when the racket of 'match fixing' in Indian cricket came to fore when players like Ajay Jadeja, Azharuddin and Manoj Prabhakar were all charged with 'fixing' the matches. Although Indian players Ajay Sharma, Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja, Manoj Prabhakar has been banned for life and 5 years respectively, still this issue is in controversy because there is nothing in any of the Indian law which brings Match Fixing under crime. There are latches and loopholes to control the offence of match fixing under current Indian legal system.

Strange it would sound that 'match fixing' has not been defined in any law. The only place where one can look into the definition of match fixing comes from CBI Report on Match Fixing allegations. While inquiring into the matter CBI defined 'Match Fixing' as

(i) instances where an individual player or group of players received money individually/collectively to underperform;

(ii) instances where a player placed bets in matches in which he played that would naturally undermine his performance;

(iii) instances where players passed on information to a betting syndicate about team composition, probable result, pitch condition, weather, etc., 

(iv) instances where groundsmen were given money to prepare a pitch in a way which suited the betting syndicate; and

(v) Instances of current and ex-players being used by bookies to gain access to Indian and foreign players to influence their performance for a monetary consideration."

First of all, by looking at this definition it gives an impression as this definition applies to players and players only. It does not anywhere talks about passing of information to a betting syndicate by coach or selector themselves or any other person related to cricket team? Do these persons come under the meaning of 'player'? A player is one who plays on the ground, not any person related to cricket. Further, there might be situations where player bets on himself to egg him on to do better. This may be done with bona fide intention to play better. Whether these situations can be covered by this definition? Certainly not! Therefore, match fixing should be defined something like this- "Match Fixing is an instance where a player(s) or official(s), directly or indirectly do/does an undue favour to somebody including himself by harming the basic spirit of the game."

Match Fixing and Indian Penal Code

It is said that match-fixing is cheating the government, the public, especially the millions of cricket fans. Underplaying and nexus with bookies are acts of cheating for pecuniary benefits. But from a legal point of view according to s.415 of IPC "Whoever, by deceiving any person, fraudulently, or dishonestly induces the person so deceived to deliver any property to any person, or to consent that any person shall retain any property, or intentionally induces the person so deceived to do or omit to do anything which he would not do or omit if he were not so deceived, and which act or omission causes or is likely to cause damage or harm to that person in body, mind, reputation or property, is said to cheat." Explanation to this section says that- A dishonest concealment of facts is a deception within the meaning of this Section. For interpreting this section for purposes of match fixing one has to look into definition of word 'Dishonestly' given in section 24 of IPC which reads as-" Whoever does anything with the intention of causing wrongful gain to one person, or wrongful loss to another person is said to do that thing dishonestly." The courts while interpreting s.24 has made clear that just because someone has suffered a wrongful loss, it does not mean that the act that caused it was a dishonest act. In case of Ahmed v. State of Rajasthan (1967 Cri LJ 1053(Raj.)) it was laid that the act becomes a 'dishonest' only when there is an intention, irrespective of the result. Now in case of match fixing whether there is an element of 'dishonest concealment of fact' and whether it causes a wrongful loss or wrongful gain to someone. When a player conceals the fact of receiving money from punters or bookmakers, it can be construed as 'dishonest concealment of fact'. The fact that they cause wrongful gain to themselves construes wrongful loss to spectators. But to bring this 'dishonest concealment' under Cheating one has to prove intention to cause wrongful loss to spectators. In my view this wrongful loss to spectators is mere consequence of this act and is only incidental and thus lacks the intention of causing wrongful loss. So, who cheated whom? Could those who placed illegal bets deemed to have been cheated by a fixed match? But it is not the case. Thus we find that Match Fixing is not covered by IPC.

Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and Match Fixing

According to s.13 (1) (d) (ii) of POC Act 'a public servant is said to commit the offence of criminal misconduct, if he by abusing his position as a public servant, obtains for himself or for any other person any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage.' To bring the act of match fixing one has to bring 'cricketers' under 'public servants'. S. 2 (c) (viii) defines public servant as a person who holds an office by virtue of which he is authorized or required to perform any public duty. But do cricketers really do any public duty. Cricketers are mere professionals governed by independent contracts whose job is to entertain people by playing cricket. They do nothing sort of public duty. Thus cricketers do not come under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 also.

In summing up, provisions of law are not stringent enough o control the offence. It is high time now for the authorities to swing into action. There is a need to amend present law to bring 'match fixing' under crime. Unless nipped in bud at the earliest, it is likely to cause turbulence.

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