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Match-fixing and spot-fixing: A tangled web in Indian Criminal Law

Rahul Naresh Rahul Naresh

A peep into match-fixing and spot-fixing in India

The match-fixing and spot-fixing laws have been the topic of conversation for several years now. Players getting away unpunished for what could be seen as a major crime has angered several sports fans for quite some time.

Sports fans in India—particularly those who follow cricket—treat their favourite sport nothing less than how they would treat a loved one. Fooling these fans and betraying their trust can only go down one way.

For several years, fans have been doubting the authenticity of the game of cricket because of several match-fixing or spot-fixing scandals. Cases like the Azharuddin scandal or the latest one involving Karnataka Premier League cricketers has only induced more paranoia.

However, the fans still love and adore this fantastic game and expect the players to repay their faith with fair and genuine competition on the pitch.

Hence, the question regarding the criminalisation of match-fixing needs answering, and the need for the sports laws to address the same is also required.

This article seeks to address the problems with putting away those involved in match-fixing under the Indian criminal laws and proposes to incorporate separate legislation criminalising match-fixing, one that is much required in today’s commercially-driven cricket industry.

 

Current criminal laws and match-fixing

The current criminal law in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) under which a person committing a match-fixing offence is charged is Section 415 of the Code. This particular provision seeks to punish those who commit the crime of cheating.

 

The condition has been worded as mentioned below.

 

Section 415

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.

Clearly, the definition states that the person(s) involved in committing the offence must be intending to deceive the party facing the injury. In the case of match-fixing, the persons being deceived and injured can be said to be the fans watching the game.

However, it becomes challenging to prove one’s intent to deceive the fans. Concealment of facts and deceiving the cricketing universe can definitely be proved, but the intention to do so becomes increasingly difficult to prove.

Furthermore, the provision requires the delivery of property of some kind. In the current case, given the lack of an element wherein delivery of such kind is undertaken, the characteristics of cheating would not be met, and the accused would hence be acquitted.

 

Section 420

A similar provision under which players are generally charged is Section 420 of the IPC. This provision, too, requires the inducement to deliver property, which is a condition that is not satisfied while committing the offense of match-fixing.

The Karnataka Premier League players CM Gautham and Abrar Kazi, who were arrested for committing a crime under the aforementioned provision, were quite easily granted anticipatory bail due to the shortcomings of the provision in comparison to the offence.

Apart from the provision, which shares the maximum number of elements with cheating, the IPC does not provide laws addressing this particular offence. In the absence of laws to convict the persons involved in match-fixing, the criminal side does not function efficiently.

 

The need for a fresh legislation

The laws mentioned above are why we are unable to put away people for indulging in match-fixing. The lack of appropriate definition and the evidentiary requirements prove way too much for the Indian Judiciary to put them away for indulging in match-fixing competently. Several match-fixing scandals in the past decade, including the ones involving the Rajasthan Royals’ players in 2013 and the KPL incidents, have not proved successful in putting away the alleged offenders.

The need today is to come up with new legislation in favour of criminalising match-fixing. A new proposed law with a well-defined wording of the offence would make the enforcement process of the law far easier than it currently is. We could, then, finally strive towards a system people would genuinely fear the consequences of their offences.

Cricketers today with a basic understanding of the law know for a fact that they can never truly be put away in a criminal sense. Hence, it is about time we address this very fact and make the necessary changes.

 

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Rahul Naresh

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