Not Guilty, Yet Guilty

Walking free Ajit Chandila was also acquitted by the trial court. Photo: AFP
Walking free Ajit Chandila was also acquitted by the trial court. Photo: AFP

In addition, Delhi Police tried to prove that the crucial link in the chain-of-command between Dawood and Shakeel and the mega bookies was Dubai-based Javed Chutani alias ‘Doctor’. However, Judge Krishna said that Chutani’s identity was not established; he wasn’t even arrested in this case. The only link between him and Dawood was a phone conversation (26 March 2013) between a Pakistan mobile number (+923332064488) which belonged to Dawood and Shakeel, and a Dubai one (+971504560616). In the conversation, one of the three speakers introduced someone as Chutani.
As the judge noted, “From the said conversation no inference whatsoever can be drawn that Javed Chutani was a member of organised crime syndicate. An innocuous interjection cannot be sufficient to conclude that this Javed Chutani was a partner in crime with Dawood/Chota Shakeel.” She added, “None of the other accused are claimed to be in direct or indirect touch with Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel. Once the only link between Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel, and other accused is not established, it cannot be said that whatever the activities that were being carried out by all other accused, was as part of organised crime syndicate.”
Another issue to ponder: The police said that the Pakistan number was used by both Dawood, based in Pakistan, and Shakeel, based in Dubai. “It is difficult to comprehend as to how the same mobile number was being used by two persons who were placed in different countries,” said the sessions court order. The judge rejected the police explanation that the mobile had roaming facility and “it was being taken by the concerned person with him while travelling to Dubai.”
In its report, the Justice Mudgal Committee maintained that the conduct of the errant players and team owners would be determined by the several ipl rules that applied to players, player support personnel and franchisees. These included IPL Operational Rules,IPL  Regulation,IPL Anti Corruption Code, IPL Code of Conduct for Players and Match Officials, and franchisee agreements. For instance, the Operational Rules state that “each person… shall not, whether during a Match or otherwise, act or omit to act in any way which would or might reasonably be anticipated to have an adverse impact on the image and/ or reputation of such Person, any Team, any Player, and Team Official, the bcci, the League and/or the Game or which would bring any of the foregoing into disrepute.”

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The Anti Corruption Code specifies the various acts that spoil the image of what used to be a gentleman’s game. These included fixing the result of a match; seeking, accepting or offering a bribe or reward to fix a game; cajoling anyone to commit such an offence; illegal betting; misuse of inside information like pitch conditions or team constitution; and acceptance of gifts and payments. As per the Justice Mudgal report, the cricketing trio, along with Meiyappan and Kundra, were guilty of several of these charges.
On the basis of the above conclusions, the Lodha Committee set out to figure out the punishment for Meiyappan and Kundra, as also the two teams they represented — Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings. While the teams were suspended for two years, the two individuals received a life ban. There is no way any court, except the larger bench of sc, can overturn these conclusions, which have the legal sanctity of the apex court. Thus the bcci found it tough to remove the ban on the three cricketers, although the latter pleaded for a revocation.
A twist in the tale: The issue of whether to remove the ban will be decided by Neeraj Kumar, who heads the anti-corruption division in the BCCI. Coincidentally, it was the Delhi Police team headed by Kumar which investigated the matchfixing charges.
In her judgment, Judge Krishna has inadvertently — or possibly deliberately — pointed a finger at the three cricketers. These observations prove the guilt of the trio as per BCCI and IPL rules. For example, in the case of Chandila, she said, “Mere agreement to underplay in itself would not fall within the definition of ‘unlawful activity’ which is also an essential ingredient for an offence to be held as organised crime (under MCOCA). Simply receiving gifts or watches or sunglasses… can neither be held as consideration for matchfixing, nor can it be termed a crime.”
But all the above actions would tantamount to guilt as per the BCCI and IPL  rules, and the code of conduct for the players. One should also remember that the evidence with Delhi Police included Chandila’s admission that he received Rs 12 lakh for spot-fixing in 2012, but returned the money as he wasn’t able to underperform. The police found one cheque of Rs 4 lakh was debited to the account of Sunil Bhatia, who was linked to the bookies, and two cheques of Rs 4 lakh each were recovered from Bhatia. Both these cheques were dishonoured due to insufficient funds.
In the case of Sreesanth, the order talked about a conversation (9 May 2013) between P Jiju Janardhanan, a close friend of the cricketer, and Chandresh Patel alias Chand, a bookie. In it Jiju tells Patel, “He is a little stubborn about this. He is playing after a long time and he is risking time… Maine usko samjha diya (I have explained it to him) but he did not want to take risk.” This conversation, stated the order, proved that “Sreesanth was not willing to fix the over since he had come to play the game after a long time and was not willing to take a risk.” But in the eyes of the bcci the mere fact that the fast bowler was talking indirectly to bookies is a crime.
This is what the order said about Chavan: “First and foremost, the call intercepts may show that he was known to Ajit Chandila and Chandresh Patel and had even met Jitender Jain, the bookie, but there is no proof whatsoever to show that 60,00,000 were paid to him. There is also no evidence that he did not perform in the match to the best of his capacity.” For the BCCI and Justice Mudgal Committee though, such acts infringed the players’ code of conduct.
Clearly, the ‘not guilty’ verdict against the three cricketers or rather the fact that the sessions court did not find a prima facie case against them may only prove, at least for the time being, that they did not commit any criminal acts under specific sections of the IPC and MCOCA. But it still establishes that they, and others, brought, disrepute to the game, and flouted IPL  norms. Who knows, in the near future, the higher courts may find them guilty of criminal charges too!