Corruption in IPL: Trial court discharges Sreesanth, Chavan, Chandila
Charges against Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila, who had been charge-sheeted for the IPL 2013 corruption scandal, were dropped by a trial court in Delhi on Saturday. The court's decision, however, did not have an impact on the life bans imposed by the BCCI on Sreesanth and Chavan. The three were among 42 individuals acquitted by the court on grounds of lack of sufficient evidence for prosecution under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).
The three cricketers were arrested in May-June 2013 for their alleged involvement in betting and spot-fixing during the IPL. While Sreesanth and Chavan were granted bail within a month, Chandila had to spend more than three months in prison before he was released on bail. The BCCI banned Sreesanth and Chavan in September 2013, while Chandila's case is pending before the board's disciplinary committee.
With the absence of a specific criminal law to deal with spot-fixing in India, the cricketers were charge-sheeted for offences under the Indian Penal Code and provisions of the MCOCA. The court, however, said there was not enough evidence for charges to be framed under the MCOCA, a special law passed by the Maharashtra state government to tackle organised crime syndicates and terrorism which contains far stricter provisions relating to bail and admissibility of confessions compared to the Indian Penal Code
In its reaction to the court's decision, the BCCI said its disciplinary action would remain unaltered. "Any disciplinary proceeding or decision taken by the BCCI is independent to any criminal proceeding and has no bearing. The decisions of the BCCI, based on its independent disciplinary action, shall remain unaltered," the board said in a press release.
The three cricketers, were, however, hopeful of returning to the game. Sreesanth said he wanted to start training as soon as possible to get back into the selection process. "I'm very, very happy. I want to thank God," he said. "I will try to start training properly as soon as possible, I wasn't allowed anything. Hopefully I can get permission from BCCI to use their facilities so that I can get fit and come into the selection process."
Reacting to the court's decision, Chandila said the period following the spot-fixing scandal was "the worst of my life".
Chavan also expressed hope of returning to the game: "So far I just know that I have been given a discharge and now I am looking forward to play cricket. So let's see how it goes. I am taking it step by step. It was tough for me as a cricketer. It was a tough time but I got through with support from family and friends. I am sure I will be back to cricket again."
Suhrith Parthasarthy, a lawyer, believed, however, that the trial court's decision would have little impact on the 'civil consequences' faced by the cricketers.
"They were charged under a law that was meant to deal with organised crime in Maharashtra and the charges have been cleared because the prosecution was unable to produce before the court sufficient evidence to prove their charges," Parthasarthy told ESPNcricinfo,"In criminal law, the kind of evidence the prosecution needs to bring to court is a kind of evidence that shows beyond reasonable doubt that these individuals had committed the offences under the MCOCA. Obviously the Delhi Police was unable to do it in this case and therefore the court has cleared them of all these charges. This does not mean that the other civil consequences that Sreesanth and the other cricketers would face follow. Those would continue to apply."