It’s like a real-life Bollywood blockbuster as the spot-fixing saga drags on. More cricketers have been arrested and Shanthakumaran Sreesanth has claimed that he is innocent. The drama is unlikely to slow down any time soon, but the tournament keeps going on despite protests all over the show. By ANT SIMS.
After loads of speculation, many bad jokes and very little “innocent until proven guilty”, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth has finally spoken out. He’s one of three Rajasthan Royals players arrested on Thursday for allegedly being involved in spot-fixing.
Sreesanth has released a statement through his lawyers in which he claims he is innocent, after he and his other two partners were charged by Delhi Police under three laws of the Indian Penal Code: Section 409, which deals with criminal breach of trust and is a non-bailable offence; Section 420, which deals with deal with fraud and cheating; and Section 120B, which deals with criminal conspiracy. The Delhi Police had registered cases against the players under Sections 420 and 120B when they were arrested in the early hours of May 16. The charge under 409 was added to the list following Rajasthan Royals’ complaint against the three.
“I am innocent and have done no wrong,” Sreesanth said in a statement emailed by his lawyer, Rebecca John. “I have never indulged in any spot-fixing.” He said he was confident that his name would be cleared. “As a cricketer, I have learnt to take knocks along with accolades, in my stride. I recognise that I am going through a tough period in my life. I have utmost faith in our judicial process and I am confident that with time I will be proved innocent, and my honour and dignity will be vindicated and restored.”
At a hearing on Wednesday, police said that conversations of players and bookies were being analysed and voice samples of the accused had been taken in order to try and match them with the recorded conversations. Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan also reiterated the police’s claims that more names had cropped up. These details were submitted to the court in a sealed cover.
The strangest part of the case, from a legal perspective, is what the players are charged with. The charge under Section 409 carries a maximum punishment of life in prison. The law, however, applies to “a criminal breach of trust” by somebody considered to be a “public servant” or “in the way of his business as a banker, merchant, factor, broker, attorney or agent”.
The law could be applied in two ways to cricketers, of course, since players could be seen as agents with their franchises or as public servants for representing their countries – in Sreesanth’s case, anyway.
The Indian Supreme Court upheld a ruling by the Kerela High Court in which officials of the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) were seen as public servants. This ruling, made in 2011, meant that even those who were considered to be part of a private body (like an IPL franchise), but were considered to perform a “public function”, could be tried under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. Supreme Court judges referred to the High Court’s decision as a “beautifully crafted judgement”.
It was a somewhat minor case in which Balaji Iyengar, a chartered accountant and former Kerala junior cricketer, had filed a complaint against the KCA in the Vigilance Court two years before. The court ruled in favour of KCA, but Iyengar then challenged the ruling in the High Court.
The current saga is likely to drag on much, much longer, and while investigations are still ongoing, everything else seems to be coming apart at the seams and more and more people are alleged to be involved.
Baburao Yadav became the fifth cricketer arrested by the Delhi Police on Tuesday afternoon, while Amit Singh, a former Rajasthan Royals player-turned bookie, was the other player allegedly involved. Yadav has never played IPL cricket: only first-class and list-A cricket for Vidarbha and Twenty20 cricket for Railways. He only has a total of 12 matches under his belt. It is believed that he is involved as a bookmaker, too, and was produced in court along with the other accused on Tuesday.
Virendra Dara Singh Randhawa, also known as Vindoo, the son of famous Indian wrestler Dara Singh, was also arrested by the Mumbai Police, along with three others.
“The first [arrest] is that of Alpesh Patel, who was a hawala operator connected to these bookies. We have recovered Rs 1.28 crores (US$230,000) in cash from his premises,” Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of police (crime) in Mumbai, said.
“[Vindoo] has also been arrested for links with bookies who have been arrested by us (on Saturday),” Roy said. “The third is Prem Taneja. There are in remand till May 24.”
In an additional development, The Madras High Court has issued notices to the BCCI president and the IPL chairman, among others, on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a Madurai-based lawyer seeking a government takeover of the administration of the BCCI and the IPL.
V Santhakumaresan alleged that certain activities were purely commercial without any objective of charity, and that the board failed to promote the game.
Santhakumaresan asked the court to direct the CBI to investigate match-fixing, betting and the source of the BCCI’s income along with its financial status.
He also sought a stay on IPL matches to be played from 22 to 26 May, but a similar decision had been heard in the Supreme Court in Delhi on Tuesday already and the claim was dismissed.
While the claim was dismissed, the court did give the BCCI 15 days to complete its investigations, a big challenge for the sport’s governing body, which also has to deal with Pune Warriors pulling out of the IPL.
If ever there were a time for the BCCI to act and prove that they are not the evil machine many seem to believe they are, it’s now. Equally, the ICC has to lend its support to the governing body to ensure the matters are dealt with adequately and in a timely manner. Investigations do take time, but with all the evidence reportedly at hand, it shouldn’t be too difficult to conclude. Once that has happened, the BCCI and the ICC have to act without mercy if anybody is found to be guilty. DM
Photo: Demonstrators burn a poster of former India test bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth during a protest in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad May 16, 2013. Sreesanth and two other players have been arrested by Delhi police on suspicion of spot-fixing in the Indian Premier League, sports officials said on Thursday. REUTERS/Amit Dave
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